How COVID-19 has impacted young patients at Valley Children's Hospital

Doctors at Valley Children's Hospital say the start of the year brought with it a spike in COVID-19 cases.
MADERA COUNTY, Calif. (KFSN) -- Doctors at Valley Children's Hospital say the start of the year brought with it a spike in COVID-19 cases.

Holiday gatherings and winter break were partly to blame.

"But also what we have been seeing is more and more of the cases of the subsequent inflammatory response to COVID-19 among children," said Dr. Nhael Mhaissen.

Three-year-old Gemma Sanchez got sick shortly after her mother Maghan contracted COVID.

"She did test positive for COVID as well as she did have the antibodies when they checked it in her blood," said Maghan Sanchez.

Sanchez recalls feelings of helplessness when her active daughter suddenly became lethargic.

"She was experiencing very high fevers. Also, she ended up getting a rash all over her legs and her arms," Sanchez said.

Doctors say those symptoms are also common with kids with MIS-C, Multi-System Inflammatory Syndrome associated with COVID.

"The common symptoms are, these kids come in sick with high fevers with rashes on the skin, with red eyes. What we call conjunctivitis and then many of them have trouble breathing," said Dr. Mhaissen.

Some kids will develop stomach pain and diarrhea.

Dr. Mhaissen says, for some children, the symptoms have been severe enough to be admitted into the ICU.

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Though, Gemma's doctor says she did not have the inflammatory syndrome.

"He thinks he can rule it out, which I'm super happy about," Sanchez said.

Dr. Mhaissen noticed most of the infected kids who develop severe symptoms are often overweight.

"You especially see that associated with a child having obesity, so the weight or being overweight is probably the number one risk factor for severe disease in children," Dr. Mhaissen said.

After a stay of a few days, Gemma was ready to go home and play with her Barbies.

Her mom couldn't thank the doctors and staff at Valley Children's enough.

"I don't think I even have words to describe how amazing everybody is. You know, the nurses, the playroom staff who sent toys and things for her to do," Sanchez said.

Sanchez says those little things play a big role in a little patient's recovery.

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