ATLANTA - When two-year-old Mahogany Heard of Fairburn came home from daycare earlier this month running a slight fever, her mom Shamika Long-Heard says she wasn't really worried.
"I had heard that hand, foot and mouth was going around in the school," Long-Heard says.
Mahogany Heard, 2, sits in the back of an ambulance on September 11, 2021. Her mother says the toddler was diagnosed with MIS-C, a rare complication linked to COVID-19. (Shamika Long-Heard )
As a mother of seven children between the ages of 2 and 24, she knew the common childhood virus had to run its course.
She kept Mahogany at home and gave her over-the-counter fever medication to try to bring down her temperature. But, after a week of waiting and two visits to the ER, Mahoghany's mother says she seemed to be getting worse, not better.
"At that point she had become weak, very weak," she says. "She couldn't crawl. She couldn't walk. Her heart rate, you could feel her heart pumping through her clothes."
Back at the ER, the toddler was loaded into an ambulance and rushed to Children's Healthcare of Atlanta at Egleston, where she underwent a series of tests.
"The doctor came in immediately and said, 'It's MIS-C," Long-Heard says.
MIS-C is multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children, a condition that causes inflammation in heart, lungs, kidneys and other systems of the body.
Long-Heard says doctors told her Mahogany's inflamed heart was enlarged, and her heartbeat was irregular.
Pediatrician Dr. Jennifer Shu of Children's Medical Group of Atlanta says it is not clear exactly why some children develop MIS-C, but there seems to be connection between COVID-19 infections and the syndrome.
"It's basically complications that seem to follow COVID by about four weeks," Shu says. "So, 98% of the kids who have been diagnosed with MIS-C have been, have had some kind of positive test for COVID. The other 2%, have had a known exposure."
Shamika Long-Heard says was stunned by her daughter's MIS-C diagnosis because she had no idea Mahogany, who spent several days in Children's cardiac ICU, had been exposed to the virus.
She had not noticed any symptoms and says no one in her family had appeared sick, but the toddler had antibodies to the virus, indicating prior exposure.
Mahogany Heard, 2, sits in the back of an ambulance on September 11, 2021. Her mother says the toddler was diagnosed with MIS-C, a rare complication linked to COVID-19.
Pediatrician Dr. Jennifer Shu of Children's Medical Group of Atlanta says a persistent fever seems to be the main warning sign of MIS-C.
The CDC says MIS-C typically include a fever and one of the following symptoms:
- Abdominal (gut) pain
- Bloodshot eyes
- Chest tightness/pain
- Feeling extra tired
- Low blood pressure
- Neck pain
Mahogany, who was hospitalized for six days, was treated with steroids and other medications and given a blood transfusion, her mother says.
About 5 million children have been infected with COVID-19, Dr. Shu says, and there have been about 4,600 reported cases of MIS-C.
She says 41 children have died from complications of the syndrome.
"So, parents should know that it's rare, but it can happen," Dr. Shu says. "And, if you see something happening, like a persistent fever, where your child seems sicker than might be expected from a respiratory infection, get them checked out."
Shamika Long-Heard is glad they got help. She says Mahogany is now back home, and doing well.
"She is back to playing, back to learning, back to being herself," Long-Heard says, "I totally thank the Children's Healthcare of Atlanta team, because I got my baby back."
Mahogany will be followed by a pediatric cardiologist for the next year, her mother says, to make sure her heart is fully recovering.