Eight-year-old Zane Wampler never expressed symptoms associated with COVID-19. Three tests performed on him came back negative.
A positive antibodies test, though, led doctors to believe young Zane had a syndrome found in children that medical experts say is linked to COVID-19. Those diagnosed with multisystem inflammatory syndrome, or MIS-C, eventually get better with medical care. Some get worse — as was the case for Zane — who remains hospitalized at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital in Miami.
Leah Wampler knew something was seriously wrong when her 8-year-old son developed a 105-degree fever almost two weeks ago. He was taken to the hospital and sent home with what was believed to be a virus, Wampler said.
A day later, Zane was back in the hospital with a 105-degree fever. He was again sent home as doctors said it was a virus, Wampler said.
“I knew as a parent that there was something very seriously wrong,” she said. “He was shaking and convulsing. We had to put cold wash cloths all over his body to get the temperature down.”
Zane ultimately was taken, via ambulance by the request of his local pediatrician, to the children’s hospital in Miami where he remains. Between 20 and 30 doctors are seeing Zane as they all work together to combat the syndrome. He was moved from ICU to a regular room on Tuesday, his mom posting, “We are over the moon excited that we are moving in the right direction.”
“The nurses and doctors here are amazing,” she said. “They’ll talk with the doctor and they’ll talk with their team and go from there how we combat this. It’s a symptom-by-symptom approach because there is nothing they can just give him.”
According to the Mayo Clinic’s website, MIS-C is a serious condition in which parts of the body, such as the heart, blood vessels, kidneys, digestive system, brain, skin or eyes, become inflamed. It typically includes swelling, often with redness and pain.
“They said they’ve seen five children with MIS-C, but they said Zane’s symptoms are by far the worst,” Wampler said, adding they don’t believe his symptoms are associated with dengue since the antibodies test came back positive. Zane received a dengue test last week, but results haven’t come back from the health department.
Wampler said doctors all agree that if anyone was around him was to get the same virus, they would have already had symptoms. She also said they don’t know how he got it.
Many, but not all, children with MIS-C test negative for a current infection with the virus that causes COVID-19, according to the Mayo Clinic. Evidence, however, indicates that many of these children were infected with the COVID-19 virus in the past, as shown by positive antibody test results.
Positive results from an antibody test show that the child’s immune system developed blood proteins (antibodies) that fought the COVID-19 virus. The Mayo Clinic says this blood test is the only indication that the child was ever infected — meaning the child may have fought the infection without ever having shown signs or symptoms of COVID-19.
Still, some children with MIS-C are currently infected with the coronavirus, usually confirmed by detection of the virus on a swab taken from the nose or throat. Children with MIS-C need to be treated in a hospital and some in a pediatric intensive care unit.
Dr. Stan Zuba, Zane’s pediatrician, said MIS-C has some relationship to the signs and symptoms associated with Kawasaki disease. It usually causes inflammation in the walls of blood vessels, particularly those that supply blood to the heart muscle (coronary arteries). Researchers are working to figure out if the two conditions are related or not.
“This (MIS-C) is all brand new and no one knows what the long-term consequences are,” he said. “There’s still so much information we don’t know.”
Wampler said the experience has been a roller coaster ride. Last Saturday, she said, he was waking up more and becoming more responsive. But the symptoms change fast, she said. According to the Mayo Clinic, some signs and symptoms include fever that lasts 24 hours or longer, skin rash, red eyes, redness or swelling of the lips and tongue and feeling unusually tired.
“His face will swell up, his eyes will close, his lips get huge and then it’ll go away,” she said. “This morning (July 25), we were talking to him and he was up a little bit, but not out of his bed. And then all of sudden he looked at us and said ‘I’m tired’ and his whole face broke out super red and his eyes started swelling.
“He’s got stripes on his left hip,” she continued. “The other day he was screaming that something was wrong and we couldn’t see anything.”
Wampler said her son is an active kid who plays baseball, basketball, soccer, wrestling and swimming. He’s set to enter the fourth grade at Plantation Key School, and he’s turning 9 years old on Aug. 2.
“It’s very real and it’s very scary, and I’ve been sitting here staring at my 8-year-old son with my husband for eight days,” she said. “If someone would have asked me two weeks ago about school, I would have said ‘absolutely.’ And I would have also said that this would never happen to us, especially down in the Keys in our tight little family.”
Wampler says she’s overwhelmed by the amount of support she’s received from not only the Keys community, but also people in different parts of the country and world. Zane’s story has gone national as Wampler has appeared on “World News Tonight with David Muir” on ABC.
“Our Keys family, it makes me emotional,” she said. “They’ve all rallied behind us. We’ve had people offer to help care for our daughter, Saylor. We’ve had people contact us from all over who I don’t even know … other parents in other parts of the U.S. and elsewhere who’ve had similar symptoms contacting me to get information.”
Wampler said she hopes sharing Zane’s story will spread awareness on just how important it is to take precautions. Wampler continues to share occasional updates on Zane via her Facebook page. On Monday, July 27, Zane was going through some pain as doctors said he has encephalopathy, which can cause erratic behavior and hallucinations. On a positive note, Wampler said he’s having more happy moments each day. As of Monday afternoon, he was sitting up right and acting all right.
On July 28, Wampler said Zane was able to play Legos with his dad. His fevers are also going down. He remained in the intensive care unit.
“Everyone says it’s not going to happen to children, and that the kids are almost invincible to this. It’s very real and it’s very scary,” she said.
Zuba said schools should be thinking twice about reopening schools, as it could put more people at risk for COVID-19.
“I don’t think there’s an urgent need to open schools yet,” he said. “Let’s get the cases down first and slow things down. We don’t want more kids getting sick. They could spread it to their parents and grandparents.”