A 13-year-old boy has been left fighting for his life with coronavirus after developing inflammatory symptoms including bloodshot eyes and rashes.
Lewis Greig, from Torry, Aberdeen, has been on a ventilator at the Royal Hospital for Children, Glasgow, after he fell ill last week with a high temperature.
Mother Karen Simpson said they were initially assured he did not have COVID-19 as he did not have a dry cough. But Lewis’s condition worsened with other symptoms, including a measles-like rash, red swollen eyes and vomiting.
It comes after the NHS warned there was ‘growing concern’ a coronavirus-related inflammatory syndrome was emerging. Medics have been told to be mindful of symptoms like Lewis’s, which could point towards a type of toxic shock, known as Kawasaki disease.
Lewis Greig, from Torry, Aberdeen, has been on a ventilator at the Royal Hospital for Children, Glasgow, after he suddenly became unwell last week with a high temperature (pictured: Lewis, left, and the rash which appeared on his hand, right)
Lewis was admitted to hospital in Aberdeen before being transferred to an intensive care unit in Glasgow, where he tested positive for the virus.
Lewis is in a critical but stable condition and is showing signs of improvement, although his family must wear protective equipment while visiting.
Ms Simpson spoke about Lewis’s ordeal to warn parents that children with COVID-19 can show different symptoms to adults.
WHAT IS KAWASAKI DISEASE?
Kawasaki disease is a condition that causes inflammation in the walls of the blood vessels and affects mostly children under five years old.
The inflammation can weaken the coronary arteries, which supply the heart with blood. This can lead to aneurysms and heart attacks.
The condition affects eight children out of every 100,000 and statistics show it is fatal in three per cent of cases that go untreated.
WHAT SYMPTOMS DOES IT CAUSE?
The symptoms of Kawasaki disease usually develop in three phases over a six-week period, according to advice on the NHS’ website.
The first signs are a fever and a rash in the first few weeks, followed by the eyes of children becoming red and swollen.
It can also cause the lips to dry up and crack, a sore throat, swollen lymph glands and the tongue to become red, the NHS warns.
The second phase of Kawasaki disease often causes symptoms such as abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhoea, headaches, joint pain and jaundice.
In the third phase, symptoms tend to disappear but children ‘may still have a lack of energy and become easily tired during this time’.
Ms Simpson, who is currently staying in a Glasgow hotel to be close to her son, with Lewis’s father Wayne, 47, said: ‘It all started last Saturday when we discovered he had a temperature. It was really high – about 40.5 degrees.
‘At first we didn’t think it was anything too major. We assumed he had a bug and that it would pass.
‘On the Sunday though, things weren’t any better and Lewis started to get progressively worse as the week went on.
‘He started being sick, had a sore head and was really tired. We’d already been on the phone to the COVID-19 hub on 111 and they said to make sure he was drinking – if they needed to admit him they would.
‘By Thursday, he had developed a measles-like rash on his hands and his eyes went deep red and bloodshot.
‘On Friday morning, he woke up in a bad way. We phoned the doctor, who had a quick look at him and they phoned the sick kids’ hospital.
‘We took him up straight away, and when we got there, he couldn’t walk from the car into the building.’
Within hours of being taken to hospital, Lochside Academy pupil Lewis had been put on a ventilator to help him breathe.
And in the early hours of Saturday, he was transferred to Glasgow by ambulance.
Ms Simpson said: ‘I have never seen anything like it before. It was so scary. The first few tests they did came back negative for COVID-19. But then they did another one and that came back positive on Sunday night.’
Ms Simpson now wants to make other parents aware of tell-tale signs which may show children are suffering from the virus.
She said: ‘I want to help other parents understand how to spot it. They might show some really strange symptoms which aren’t fitting with the normal coronavirus symptoms. Make sure you get them checked and keep pushing to have them tested.
The condition is a form of toxic shock syndrome which causes the body’s immune system to attack its own organs
‘One of the doctors said to us children don’t present with a dry cough like adults do. In children, there’s an inflammatory reaction which makes it look like an autoimmune disease.’
Lewis, who is a brother to Nathan, Sam, Abby, Jorja and Eli, is now showing small signs of progress – and his family are determined to help him pull through.
Ms Simpson said: ‘Lewis is now making small steady steps towards getting better, although he is still having to have quite a lot of medication and is still on a ventilator.
‘He’s able to move now and knows when we go into his room, although we can’t have very much contact with him and need to wear PPE.
‘But he is showing some positive signs and he is definitely in the right place. He will get through this because he is a fighter.’
NHS doctors have been warned to look out for severe reactions in children – including symptoms like Lewis’s.
An urgent alert issued by NHS England said there was a ‘growing concern’ a COVID-19-related inflammatory syndrome was emerging, a rare form of toxic shock known as Kawasaki disease.
Doctors were yesterday issued an alert about a sharp rise in the number of infants being admitted to intensive care across the UK with the ‘inflammatory syndrome’ over the past three weeks. Most of the children affected already have Kawasaki disease, NHS sources said.
Health chiefs today insisted they are ‘unaware’ of any deaths in British children from the inflammatory syndrome – despite Matt Hancock admitting that ‘some’ youngsters have mysteriously died with no underlying conditions.
Officials have refused to say how many British children have been affected by the illness but up to 20 have been hospitalised, it emerged today.
One child needed to be put on a form of life support after their heart and lungs began to fail. The majority of the patients are thought to be under the age of five.
WHAT DO WE KNOW ABOUT THE SYNDROME?
HOW IS THE CONDITION AFFECTING CHILDREN?
The memo warned of a rise in the number of children being admitted to intensive care with a ‘multi-system inflammatory state’.
This refers to the over-production of cytokines, known as a cytokine storm – the overreaction of the body’s immune system.
In a storm, the proteins start to attack healthy tissue, which can cause blood vessels to leak and lead to low blood pressure.
Doctors say this also happens with Ebola, causing the body to go into shock. It has also been noted in older COVID-19 patients.
WHAT SYMPTOMS DOES IT CAUSE?
The children being seen with the new syndrome often suffer from stomach pain, cardiac inflammation and ‘gastrointestinal symptoms’ – which could include vomiting and diarrhoea.
Officials did not reveal any other symptoms of the condition, despite pleas from paediatrics to specify the tell-tale signs they need to look out for.
The cases share overlapping features of toxic shock syndrome and atypical Kawasaki disease, according to the memo that was sent around.
Two of the most common symptoms of Kawasaki disease include a rash and a fever. TSS also causes a rash, dizziness and diarrhoea.
WHEN DID OFFICIALS FIRST START TO SEE CASES?
The alert sent to doctors said the spike had been seen in the past three weeks – but did not explain why it had only just been noticed.
NHS England did not reveal if it had been spotted before but said it was important clinicians were made aware of any ’emerging links’.
Officials did not confirm how many cases have been spotted across the UK – but senior paediatricians have said there are just a ‘handful’.
It is unclear if any children have died from the condition – but the fact they have been admitted to intensive care means their state is serious.
WHERE IN THE UK ARE CASES BEING SPOTTED?
The alert was sent to GPs to in North London by their local health board – understood to be the North Central London CCG.
The alert was also tweeted by the Paediatric Intensive Care Society, and the British Paediatric Allergy Immunity and Infection Group.
Officials warned that the syndrome had been reported ‘across London and also in other regions of the UK’.
It is currently unclear what the other regions are and the memo did not reveal if there are any clusters dotted across the home nations.