Mom urges Iowans to take COVID-19 seriously after son suffers life-threatening complication

Kcci Heather Green
Heather Green, a Central Iowa mom, wants others to take COVID-19 seriously after her son landed in the hospital with a rare, but potentially life-threatening complication from the virus.

CRESTON, Iowa (KCCI) — A Central Iowa mom wants others to take COVID-19 seriously after her son landed in the hospital with a rare, but potentially life-threatening complication from the virus.

Eleven-year-old Jaxson Green is back home in Creston and doing well, but in November, he was in the ICU. He and his mom, Heather, shared his story with KCCI.

His journey all began on Nov. 2, after testing positive for a seemingly mild case of COVID-19.

“He was sick for a couple days with fever, headaches and body aches,” Heather Green said.

Jaxson soon recovered and headed back to school after his quarantine period was over. His mom thought the worst was over. She said all of that changed on Nov. 20.

“Before he went to bed he told his dad he wasn’t feeling very good and had a low-grade fever,” Heather Green said. “At 2:30 in the morning he woke up, grabbing his chest, telling his dad it hurt and he couldn’t breathe and he had a bloody nose. Jaxson just described it as just gushing down his shirt and he passed out.”

After being taken to a Clarinda hospital, Jaxson was rushed to Children’s Hospital and Medical Center in Omaha.

“I like passed out on the ride,” Jaxson Green said. “It was like the pathway to death. It felt weird.”

Heather Green described it as the scariest thing she’s ever been through.

“It was kind of my worst nightmare,” she said. “It gives me goosebumps reliving it all over again.”

Jaxson landed in the cardiac ICU, where doctors diagnosed him with myocarditis–inflammation of the heart muscle.

Dr. Melissa Cullimore, a pediatric critical care specialist, treated Jaxson. She said myocarditis is a rare but serious COVID-19 complication.

“Luckily, most children do very well with COVID. But the few that do this, get this complication, are very, very ill,” Cullimore said.

“We’ve actually had some children with myocarditis from COVID, who even with medication, we couldn’t fix that and we had to put them on machines to pump their blood for them,” she said. “So this is an extremely serious condition. Children do die from myocarditis.”

Cullimore said Jaxson’s case is unique because myocarditis doesn’t typically have such a delayed onset. Another complication called MIS-C does, however. It stands for Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children.

Cullimore said children with MIS-C have inflammation in at least two systems in the body. Myocarditis can be one component. Children can also have inflammation of the brain, lungs, intestines or blood for instance.

“Jaxson’s case is unique because we really only found inflammation in his heart muscle, but it occurred a couple weeks after he had COVID, which is more when we’re seeing MIS-C,” she said.

Because of that, doctors are unsure if Jaxson had a late case of acute myocarditis, or if they caught an impending case of MIS-C before it developed.

What’s unclear, and in the back of Heather Green’s mind, is whether Jaxson will be dealing with long-term complications from the disease following this episode.

“It’s always in the back of my mind like when he gets sick again, is this gonna happen again?” Heather Green said. “Is his heart weakened now? Like, all the studies show that his heart is fine, but his heart was fine before COVID.”

In fact, she said Jaxson had no pre-existing conditions.

“I’ve barely ever been sick ever,” Jaxson Green said.

Cullimore said that seems to be a trend in children.

“What’s very worrying to me is the vast majority of children who are getting this COVID inflammatory issue are previously healthy children like Jackson,” she said.

Cullimore said it’s unclear if the disease will impact Jaxson’s future.

“It’s hard to answer that question right now, we just don’t know enough about COVID,” she said. “We haven’t watched any patients in the U.S. with COVID for even a full year yet. So we are definitely concerned, but maybe we’re hopeful that the long term complications won’t be as severe as we’re watching out for.”

Jaxson is now enrolled in a nationwide study, organized by Boston Children’s Hospital, that’s gathering data and running tests to figure out why certain children end up with severe complications from COVID-19.

Heather Green says Jaxson’s ordeal dramatically changed her outlook on COVID-19.

“Before this happened to us, I truly thought it was more of a hoax,” she said.

Now, she’s urging Iowans to do their part.

“Wear your masks when you’re out and about, and properly,” Heather Green said. “Maintain your social distancing.”

Heather Green said after Jaxson returned from the hospital, he was frequently winded in the weeks following. She said he is doing a lot better, but still gets winded at times during activities.

“We’ve gone sledding and he can go for a good hour, but then he’s out for the rest of the day,” she said.

Cullimore said even though fewer than 3% of children end up hospitalized due to COVID-19, Jaxson’s case shows that the virus can have serious impacts on children.

She encourages parents to keep a close eye on their children if they catch the virus and they shouldn’t be afraid to call their child’s doctor even if they’re having a seemingly minor complication. She encouraged parents to call 911 if they have an emergency.

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