Family of teen who nearly died from rare COVID-19-related condition has warning for parents

STANLY COUNTY, N.C. — Cases of Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C) -- a rare health condition that occurs in some children and teenagers who have contracted COVID-19 or been in contact with someone infected with the virus -- are on the rise.

According to the CDC, there have been 2,060 cases of MIS-C in the United States, half of those reported in the past four months. And with data still coming in, those numbers are likely even higher.

Dozens of cases have been reported in the Carolinas, and on Tuesday Channel 9 reporter Mark Becker spoke with the family of a Stanly County teen who had it.

>> Have questions about the coronavirus pandemic and its impact on the Carolinas? We have an entire section dedicated to coverage of the outbreak -- CLICK HERE FOR MORE.

It has been widely reported since the beginning of the pandemic that COVID-19 may not pose a serious threat to children and teenagers. That thinking is beginning to change, though, and it changed very quickly for the Hudsons after their son ended up in the hospital.

“Cooper, like two weeks ago, he didn’t feel good for a few days,” said Melanie Hudson.

She wasn’t worried at first. After all, the Hudsons’ middle son, 15-year-old Cooper, was active and perfectly healthy -- until a few weeks ago.

“When he got up, he was so dizzy he could barely walk and it was awful,” Melanie Hudson told Channel 9.

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They knew it was serious when their pediatrician sent Cooper straight to Levine Children’s Hospital in Charlotte, where doctors discovered that the teenager had the antibodies for COVID-19 and was fighting a syndrome called MIS-C, which attacks the organs of children who’ve had the virus.

In Cooper’s case, it attacked his heart and liver.

“I mean, we knew it was serious, but we didn’t know how serious it was in those first few days,” said Cooper’s dad, Matt Hudson.

They found out how serious it was when Cooper’s heart started to give out.

“His blood pressure was dropping quickly and that was the sign that told them he needed to go into the ICU,” said Matt Hudson.

“We were really worried -- like scared to death -- because we didn’t know what it was,” Melanie Hudson said. “And then I felt like they couldn’t fix it.”

Cooper’s parents said that for a few days, it was touch-and-go as their son was in intensive care. A heavy dose of steroids brought him back from the brink, and he’s now back home -- but still not himself.

“I’m still tired, but it’s going to take time,” Cooper told Channel 9.

It will take a few weeks, or maybe longer, for Cooper to get his strength back. And his parents have seen enough to know that COVID-19 can be a very real threat to children.

“I guess this was a whole new scary situation we had never heard of and it just happened so fast,” Melanie Hudson said.

“Just pay attention,” Matt Hudson warned. “This stuff is real. If your kid starts having weird symptoms and you can’t explain it, don’t take ‘No’ for an answer.”

It’s still a mystery as to why some children develop MIS-C and others don’t. When infected, children’s body parts can become inflamed, including the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, skin, eyes, or gastrointestinal organs, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Here are some of the more unusual symptoms parents should watch out for:

  • Neck pain
  • Rash
  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Feeling fatigued or extra tired

Doctors say 99% of children who had MIS-C tested positive for COVID-19.

If you’re wondering about when vaccines could be approved to help protect children, Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccines are being tested in kids as young as 12. AstraZeneca just started testing in children ages 6-17.

Most children with MIS-C have a fever (temperature of 100.4 degrees F or greater) that lasts several days, along with other symptoms.

Other common symptoms include:

  • Irritability or decreased activity
  • Abdominal pain without another explanation
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Rash
  • Conjunctivitis (red or pink eyes)
  • Poor feeding
  • Red, cracked lips or red, bumpy tongue that looks like a strawberry
  • Swollen hands and feet, which might also be red

For more information about MIS-C, click here.