A two-week holiday break came and went as students across Monroe County resumed their studies either in the classroom or at home from their laptops. For Zane Wampler, Jan. 5 marked a return to the classroom for the first time after being let out for spring break last March and battling a syndrome linked to COVID-19 months later.

Leaving his Islamorada home during the early morning hours, the fourth grader emits excitement as he prepares to see some of his friends for the first time since early last year. While he can’t wait to enjoy some recess and lunch time at Plantation Key School, he admits that he’s not one to wake up early in the morning. 

“My backpack’s so heavy,” Zane says as he makes his way to school. 

“Because you have a bunch of stuff in there,” his mom, Leah, says. “Now you have to carry your laptop to school every day. It’s a whole new world.”

It was July when doctors diagnosed the young boy with multisystem inflammatory syndrome, or MIS-C. Zane never exhibited symptoms associated with COVID-19, as three tests came back negative. 

A positive antibodies test, though, led doctors to believe that he had MIS-C. While children eventually get better with medical care, Zane’s condition worsened as his face, eyes, lips and organs swelled. He spent weeks at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital in Miami, while some 20 to 30 doctors worked together to help him. 

Zane’s condition made headlines and news locally and across the country. Support rolled in from the Keys and other parts of the U.S.

On Aug. 11, Zane returned home as he continued to recuperate and see doctors for follow-up visits. By mid-December, he was given clearance by doctors for a return to school. 

His health improved and the swelling in his organs subsided. Doctors closely monitored an enlarged artery in his left lung and a heart murmur that developed through the illness.  

“We had multiple people who cleared him. The last one was the cardiologist. That one was the biggest deal,” Zack said. “That was the one we were waiting on.”

Zane was allowed into the state’s Hospital Homebound program as he was hospitalized and homebound. 

“We essentially home schooled him, but then had a teacher from PKS,” Leah said. “She (Dr. Tina Cash) would help follow up with any questions and administer any testing that needed to be done. It was a really nice thing to have.”

Walking toward school, Zane received a few good mornings from kids who waited in a car line for drop off. Following a hug from his mom, Zane followed his dad, Zack, into Plantation Key School. 

“It’s been a really long road … five months of a lot of worry and fear and unknowns,” Leah says. “It’s such an exciting day. 

“I was thinking last night that it was almost when you take your kid to the first day of kindergarten,” she continued. “You wondered when and if it was ever going to happen.”

PKS Principal Lisa Taylor said they’re excited to have Zane back. The school’s marquee welcomed the young boy back as he arrived. 

“We are so happy he is well and able to attend school with his friends,” Taylor said.

 

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