While COVID has mostly claimed the lives of older residents, it has also claimed young people in Gila County.
Elizabeth Victoria English, 12, a student at Rim Country Middle School, died of COVID in December.
Her death was sudden and unexpected — no one even knew she had COVID.
Her mother, Carrie English, contacted the Roundup to share her daughter’s story and make parents aware of the COVID-19 complication of Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C).
While most children who become infected with the COVID-19 virus have mild symptoms, MIS-C is a serious condition that appears to be linked to COVID-19.
English’s parents did not know she’d contracted COVID-19 until after her death when an antibody test done by Phoenix Children’s Hospital came back positive. She had in fact had the coronavirus, but had been asymptomatic. The rest of the English family had tested negative for COVID-19.
With MIS-C, some organs and tissues — such as the heart, lungs, blood vessels, kidneys, digestive system, brain, skin or eyes — become severely inflamed.
MIS-C is considered a syndrome — a group of signs and symptoms, not a disease — because much is unknown about it, including its cause and risk factors.
Carrie said her daughter first became ill on Friday, Dec. 4.
“Elizabeth said she wasn’t feeling well, and I let her stay home from school. I thought she had the flu because she had a low-grade temperature and didn’t want to eat anything. She said her stomach hurt. Things progressed into the weekend and I kept trying with ‘mom remedies’ at home, but nothing was working.”
Carrie said she does not know when her daughter contracted COVID-19, but she has since learned the symptoms of MIS-C start two to three weeks after someone gets the virus.
When Elizabeth did not improve through the weekend, they took her to urgent care on Monday, Dec. 7.
“The doctor there said her heart rate was high, but probably just due to dehydration. They did a COVID test and sent us home, saying that if things got worse, take her to the ER,” Carrie said.
Within the next two hours, Elizabeth’s temperature kept going up. It would not come down and she started throwing up. At that point, her parents took her to the ER at Banner Payson Medical Center. She was given chest X-rays; staff attempted a spinal tap, but could not get one; staff ordered blood work and did another COVID test. She was also given fluids and something to bring her fever down, but with a temperature of 105, Banner sent Elizabeth by ambulance to Phoenix Children’s Hospital.
At Phoenix Children’s Hospital, she was admitted into the ICU and doctors ordered yet another COVID test.
All tests came back negative.
Carrie said she wished she had asked doctors to check for antibodies, but never suspected her daughter had already had the virus.
Staff at Phoenix Children’s started Elizabeth on IV fluids, broad-spectrum antibiotics and other treatments, but nothing was helping her high heart rate, high fever or low blood pressure.
“Doctors at this point were searching for answers — Rocky Mountain spotted fever, toxic shock, MIS-C. They didn’t know, but all the tests they ran were uncommon, so they told us it would take a few days to get results and make an official diagnosis. We unfortunately didn’t have that much time.
“My husband and I sat by her bedside, making her as comfortable as we could. Elizabeth was extremely agitated, hungry, thirsty, and could not breathe. It was heartbreaking as parents because we couldn’t do anything about any of it. Finally, the doctors made the decision to intubate her because she couldn’t control her breathing any longer, and that’s when it all went so very wrong. Her little body was just so very tired, and all her organs were so inflamed, she just couldn’t handle the intubation and she went into cardiac arrest. They were never able to bring her back, despite trying for over an hour and a half. I have read so many stories in the days after her death about parents dealing with MIS-C in the hospital with their child, and so many are pulling through. I just wish I could be telling the same story, but I don’t think our doctors had the knowledge they needed to battle this. They didn’t even start her on IVIG (a treatment for MIS-C) until an hour before her death; this is why awareness is so important. I don’t know what’s right or wrong anymore, I just want to make sure everybody has this knowledge and is informed.
“If I would have known the indicators of MIS-C, I would’ve taken my baby in sooner, doctors would be more aware of the treatment, and maybe she would still be here with us today.
“The sure signs and symptoms I would like you all to be aware of are random red rash, red bloodshot eyes, stomach ache (above the belly button), fever, diarrhea and vomiting. If any of these symptoms are present, you should take your child to the ER immediately and ask them to consider MIS-C,” Carrie said.
It all happened quick. Elizabeth first complained about not feeling well on Friday, Dec. 4. She died at 3:05 a.m., Monday, Dec. 7.
Carrie said she suspects her daughter was exposed to COVID-19 at school.
“I’m a diligent mom, but if I’d taken her to the hospital sooner, she might still be with us,” Carrie said, breaking down.
Recovering, she stressed parents pay attention if their child develops a rash, which is frequently the first sign of MIS-C. Other classic signs are a headache, an aching neck, fever and abdominal pain.
MIS-C is rare, and most children who have it eventually get better with medical care. But some kids rapidly get worse, to where their lives are at risk.
Rarely, some adults develop signs and symptoms similar to MIS-C. This new and serious syndrome, called Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Adults (MIS-A), occurs in adults who were previously infected with the COVID-19 virus and many didn’t even know it. MIS-A seems to occur weeks after COVID-19 infection, though some people have a current infection. If MIS-A is suspected, a diagnostic or antibody test for COVID-19 can help confirm current or past infection with the virus, which aids in diagnosing MIS-A.
So far, there have been 30 COVID-19 deaths in Gila County in January, with 24 of those in the Payson area. The county’s Jan. 5 health department update reported the county had 148 deaths from the virus, 103 were non-tribal residents and 45 were tribal. The Jan. 22 report confirmed 178 deaths in Gila County, 125 are non-tribal residents and 53 are members of tribal communities.
The most deaths, 12, were confirmed in the Jan. 5 report from the county’s health department; seven were in Payson and five in the Globe area. There were five deaths confirmed in the Jan. 15 report, all in the Payson area, with four in Payson and one in Strawberry. The Jan. 22 report showed six confirmed deaths, all in the Payson area, with five in Payson and one in Strawberry.