Fort Worth, Texas,
14:35 PM

Know the Signs: Mother Shares 5-Year-Old's MIS-C Fight

A North Texas mother whose daughter was recently hospitalized with a rare but serious disease is raising awareness in hopes of helping other families. Tara Copeland’s 5-year-old daughter Peyton was diagnosed with multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children, or MIS-C, in late December. In a matter of days, she was in Cook Children’s Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) and on a ventilator. In a recent interview with “Good Morning America,” Tara explained how Peyton woke up on Christmas morning with a low-grade fever and a headache.

"By the night of the 27th she came down with a really bad rash and by this time her lips were swollen, her eyes were bloodshot and her face was starting to swell," she said of Peyton. "She still had a horrible headache and stomachache and kept waking up in pain."

Tara, who lives in Weatherford, Texas, says she and her husband both tested positive for COVID-19 about a month prior and their five children, including Peyton, had symptoms. Knowing something wasn’t right with Peyton, she took her daughter to Cook Children’s Emergency Department in Fort Worth the next morning.

"They tested her for COVID-19 and said she was negative for COVID but she was positive for antibodies, and they started doing more lab work and figured out she probably had MIS-C," said Tara. "By that night she was in the ICU and about 4 p.m. the next day she was put on a ventilator."

Nicholas Rister, M.D., a pediatric infectious diseases specialist at Cook Children’s says MIS-C is directly related to COVID-19 and usually occurs a few weeks after a child has had the virus.

"It's frustrating because we don't know the exact link to why is COVID doing this in particular," Rister told "GMA." "What we've seen previously with other infections in children, and in adults too, your immune system gets really revved up, and starts driving inflammation, which normally isn't bad because that's how your body drives off infections."

"The problem with these post-infection inflammation syndromes is that you're post the infection so these kids have already had COVID and they've either recovered from it or they've had very mild symptoms, but now for some reason, their immune system gets highly turned on, and that's where you start to see the fevers, the rashes, the irritability," he said.

Dr. Rister says it’s important to be aware of MIS-C symptoms and to consult your pediatrician if they appear, regardless of whether or not your child tested positive for COVID-19. The symptoms to watch for include stomachache, fever, rash, and headache.

"If there have been family members with COVID and then weeks later a child is acting sick, then it's something that needs to be considered," he told “GMA.” "It's very tricky because it's kind of non-specific, but usually with something like MIS-C, it's going to be severe enough that it's not something that most family members would be comfortable watching at home, they're going to be like, 'My child needs to get checked out. This is too much.'"

Since the beginning of the pandemic, more than two dozen children have been treated for MIS-C at Cook Children’s. Five MIS-C patients, including Peyton, were being treated at Cook Children’s in early January.

Peyton spent nearly two weeks in the hospital before being released on Jan. 7. Tara says she is at home now and expected to make a full recovery.

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