Fort Worth, Texas,
23
July
2020
|
12:12 PM
America/Chicago

With Two COVID-19 Positive Sons, Arlington Family Faces 'Greatest Fear'

Scott Carlton is an 11-year-old Arlington boy who typically smiles with his whole face, loudly giggles contagious belly laughs and always enjoys applause and music.

But by July 14, Scotty’s bodily systems started to shut down or go haywire, one by one.

First came the daily retching, which began about two weeks earlier. Then Scotty became constipated – not unusual for a day or two but a cause for alarm by Day 4, when suppositories and digital stimulation had no effect. At the same time, he was retaining urine; nothing for 30 straight hours.

Then his fever spiked – 102.9 under his arm – and he required supportive oxygen. In an emergency telehealth appointment, Bankole Osuntokun, M.D., a gastroenterologist at Cook Children’s, ordered Scotty’s parents Catherine and Jeff Carlton of Arlington to take him to the Emergency Department at Cook Children’s Medical Center.

When his COVID-19 test came back positive later that day, the Carltons were devastated.

“This had been our great fear since mid-March when all of this started,” said Jeff, who works at The University of Texas at Arlington. “Scotty has numerous underlying medical conditions that make him susceptible. If there’s a cold out there, Scotty will catch it.

“For Scotty, COVID-19 can be a death sentence. We’re frightfully aware that it still could be.”

The second shock came a day later. With Scotty under careful watch in the hospital’s COVID unit alongside his father, the rest of the family went for testing. The Carltons’ sweet, high-energy 9-year-old son, Jeffrey, with no underlying medical conditions, also tested positive. So did a beloved home health nurse who cares for Scotty during the workweek.

“It was just too much to take – the fear, the uncertainty, the logistics of care,” said Catherine, who works at My Health My Resources of Tarrant County. “We realistically prepared ourselves for the what-if possibility of Scotty getting COVID. We never considered what might happen if we had to face more than one case at a time in the house.”

What comes next?

A little more than a week after their boys were diagnosed, here’s where things stand:

  • Thanks to what they say was “exceptional care” by hospitalist Maxie Brewer, D.O., and a team of nurses in the COVID unit, Scotty was able to go home after three days. “He is tough, though still a sick boy,” Jeff said. “We get choked up thinking of the courageous docs and nurses who cared for Scotty.”
  • Scotty continues to need supplemental oxygen and has problems with retching, but is improving each day.
  • Jeffrey spent several days feverish and fatigued, and he says his sense of smell and taste are diminished. He also has mysterious headaches that come on suddenly and last for several minutes. “Is it COVID? Is it stress?” Jeff said. “We don’t know.”
  • Quarantining together safely, they say, is a logistical impossibility. The Carltons divided up their house as best as possible to limit shared space, trying to keep their daughter, Jenna, safe. They say they can’t send her to family or friends, because she may be asymptomatic and still spread the virus to others. Their grandparents live down the street, but it is not safe to see them.
  • The rest of the family remains healthy. “We’re OK so far, though we’re hyper aware of every sniffle and cough,” Catherine said.
  • The physicians at Cook Children’s say if the boys are fever-free through this weekend, approximately 10 days after their diagnoses, then the family must quarantine for an additional 14 days. All told, they will spend about 24 days together in their home.
  • “Our worst fears are too terrible to talk about,” Jeff said. “But a secondary fear is that both Catherine and I get sick at the same time – or worse. That’s something that’s nearly impossible to prepare our family for. And it would extend this long in-home quarantine further, along with the logistics of protecting the kids all over again.”

The bigger picture

The Carltons say they are grateful for the support they’ve received at Cook Children’s. But they remain discouraged that their personal struggle comes against the backdrop of a public response they describe as “bizarre.”

“Earlier this month, people were making obviously false claims that children can’t get or transmit the virus,” Jeff said. “We may not all agree on the plans moving forward, but we all have to acknowledge the same set of facts.”

They say they are fortunate that they have understanding employers who currently allow them to work from home, good health insurance and a large support network of family, friends and neighbors. Due to Scotty’s life-threatening medical conditions, they also have 11 years of experience dealing with medical crises alongside his physicians at Cook Children’s.

“We’re probably better equipped than a lot of families to handle some of this, but how do other families find that balance?” Catherine said. “This is difficult and scary in the abstract and terrifying up close. There’s so much we don’t know.

“It’s important to tune out the noise and listen to the health experts. We don’t know all the answers. But we know this is real, and we don’t want others to live this nightmare.”

 

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Comments 1 - 20 (27)
Thank you for your message. It will be posted after approval.
Matthew Carlton
23
July
2020
That’s my Nephew. Wear a mask!
Wayne Carlton
23
July
2020
I love you all and miss you all so much.
Edward ORourke
23
July
2020
Dear Catherine I was shocked to hear about Scotty and Jeffery please know that my prayers are with your whole family. If there is anything I can do to help please let me know.
Lori Knowles
23
July
2020
Thank you for sharing your story! Keeping you all in my prayers and sending healing thoughts your way. Take care!!
Kathleen Carlton
23
July
2020
This is real, and this is my family. Please be careful and all of us can do our part by social distancing and wearing a mask.
Candice Keller
23
July
2020
My sweet boy! I love this whole family! Scotty and his nurse have a special place in my heart from all of our time together in school. My family will keep Scotty, little brother, and the entire Carlton family in our hearts and prayers!! ❤️
Ian Carlton
23
July
2020
Just wear a mask. Why is that so difficult.
Wendy Harris
23
July
2020
So sorry to hear about all you Carlton’s hope everyone gets better soon. Can’t wait to see you guys in Florida. Love ya. ❤️❤️❤️
Laura Emerson (friends of your parents from FL)
23
July
2020
So sorry to hear about what you are going through. Our thoughts and prayers are with you and your family.
Laura Leeman
23
July
2020
Thank you for sharing your story. Sending Scott and his family well wishes, healing vibes and much rest! My older son is also disabled with a long list of medical complexities. He has been admitted at Cook Children's multiple times and spent many days in the PICU for restrictive lung disease and lymphatic fluid floating in his chest which now requires him 24/7 supported oxygen and multiple daily breathing treatments. These are the reasons our family has been diligent about keeping our distance from others. However, no matter what we are doing it is very difficult to seeing the cavalier attitude of others who have no clue what it's like to face life/death situations on a regular basis. We must all do our part during this global and deadly pandemic; and if that means physically distancing ourselves, staying away from large groups and wearing a mask--so be it. When people say "chronically ill people should just stay home" not only is that insulting & selfish, it is ableism. Wearing a mask is easy and has nothing to do with politics or personal rights. It is the right thing to do because we are all facing a health crisis. We wear a mask for others and I wish everyone understood that those of us with medically compromised family members would greatly appreciate others wearing masks for us.
Ms M
24
July
2020
I love this boy! I had the pleasure and complete joy to have Scotty (and his fabulous nurse) in our class for ESY! He is such a light to be around. His nurse LOVES him and takes fabulous care of him. I witnessed this each day. Praying for Scotty and his family.
Samantha Crawford
24
July
2020
Jeff coached my daughter in a season of soccer and this family is so sweet, I hate that they're going through this. I hope this wakes people up that our children are at risk and it's the communities job to keep those most vulnerable protected. I hope they all recover quickly!
Darlene Wright
24
July
2020
My thoughts and prayers are with your family.
Vicky St John
24
July
2020
Oh, sweet Catherine. Our hearts & prayers are with you through this terrifying time. You and Jeff are so very strong. You will keep those beautiful kids safe. Scotty is a miracle under your care for 11years. Stay strong & you’ll get thru this. Malcolm needs his buddy, Jeffrey, ready for long distance games & talks. We love you.
L Cruz
24
July
2020
My prayers are with you.
Ms. Vanessa (TCK)
24
July
2020
My prayers are with you and your family. Sending well wishes and air hugs.
Sharon Lawrence
24
July
2020
Dear Catherine and Jeff. I was so sorry to hear that Scotty and Jeffrey contracted this terrible disease, you have all been thru so much. I hope they continue to get better and no one else in the family gets it. I’m sending prayers, get well wishes and virtual hugs. You are very special, caring and loving parents. Take care of yourselves and I hope to hear good news that you are all ok. Luv Sharon
MARGI STAMILE
24
July
2020
I'M A "HANDPICKED" FAMILY MEMBER OF WENDY & LIONEL (FROM VALLEY STREAM,NY) PLEASE KNOW YOUR PRECIOUS FAMILY WILL "FOREVER" BE IN MY CONTINUED DAILY PRAYERS❗ MAY OUR DEAR LORD WATCH OVER YOU "ALL", PROTECT YOUR PRECIOUS FAMILY AND BRING YOU "ALL" TO A SWIFT RECOVERY❗ AMEN❗❗
Debbie Bowman
24
July
2020
Dear Jeff and family’ we are so sorry to hear this. We are praying and so are many of our friends and family! Take care! We love and support you during this difficult time! Love, Debbie and Dennis
Vicki Norris
25
July
2020
Jennifer, prayers are with your family. I'm a AANNC member. Heartbreaking news.