Central Texas teenager on road to recovery after 8-month battle with rare COVID-19 disease

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ROUND ROCK, Texas (KXAN) – Nikko Dalesandro loves baseball. He loves fishing. The past 8 months he just tried to feel strong enough to do both.

“What I went through, I wish no one, no one in the world,” Nikko said. “It hit me hard.”

In January, the 14-year-old was rushed to Dell Children’s Medical Center after being unable to get rid of the fever.

He was quickly diagnosed with the rare post-COVID disease called multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children or MIS-C. It can cause inflammation of different parts of the body, including the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, skin, eyes, or gastrointestinal organs.

Nikko Dalesandro enjoys fishing and baseball. He finally feels like himself months after an MIS-C diagnosis. (Courtesy of David Dalesandro)

“It was terrible. I was in the hospital for four days,” Nikko explained. “I had a constant IV, I had this huge lump on my neck. I could barely move my neck. was constantly sick. I was throwing up. It wasn’t fun. ”

99.9% of unvaccinated patients

Symptoms of MIS-C include persistent fever, stomach pain, bloodshot eyes, diarrhea, lightheadedness or lightheadedness, rash, and vomiting.

“MIS-C is four to six weeks late after the COVID outbreak. So I would say that in the next two to four weeks we are going to see a huge increase in the number of MIS-C patients, ”explained Dr. Keren Hasbani, pediatric cardiologist at Dell Children’s Medical Center.

She is concerned about the outbreak of the delta variant, particularly in people aged 12 to 17, an age group eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

At the time Nikko was diagnosed, the vaccine for his age group had not yet been approved.

“Many, many children who come in with an upper respiratory infection that then progresses to oxygen starvation, which is respiratory failure, about 20-25% of our cases ended up in intensive care,” said Dr. Sarmista B. Hauger, chief of pediatric infectious diseases at Dell Children’s Medical Center and associate professor of pediatrics at UT Dell Medical School. “They require intensive therapeutic monitoring. Some had to have ventilation with machines to help them.

She explained that of all the patients they treated who were eligible to receive the vaccine, only one was vaccinated. Dr. Hauger pointed out that even family members of the patient are not vaccinated.

“An eligible adult makes the decision not to be vaccinated, it also has downstream consequences for the vulnerable people around them, including young children,” said Dr Hauger. “Plus, you know, I think people think okay, I won’t get the vaccine for any reason. But if I am infected, I can take many types of interventions available in our community. Again, they are less studied. They are resource intensive.

Long term impacts

Nikko’s parents remember the terrifying days watching their son fight MIS-C. They remember the high fever, the vomiting, the pain he felt and the lack of energy.

” We were afraid. I mean, we didn’t know what MIS-C was back then. And we are very grateful to Dr Hauger, ”said Nikko’s father, David Dalesandro. “As soon as she entered she looked at three symptoms and immediately said, it’s possible MIS-C, and started treating it as such.”

Nikko Dalesandro will need to have his heart monitored regularly after the MIS-C diagnosis. (Courtesy of Claudia Dalesandro)

They explained that prior to Nikko’s MIS-C diagnosis, he was a healthy and active teenager. They are now worried about the long term impacts.

“It’s more of her heart… we check her heart every six weeks now, we want to make sure nothing has changed,” Nikko’s mother Claudia Dalesandro said.

Dell Children’s studies long-term impacts and participated in an international study of inflammatory syndrome in children.

“The inflammation that occurs in the heart does not allow the heart to function as well,” said Dr. Hasbani. “And then the long term problem with MIS-C is that it affects the coronary arteries, and that can cause them to dilate, and then not be able to function properly either.”

Dr Hasbani explained that his team has even treated babies with MIS-C.

“Their mothers were not vaccinated either. So they didn’t get the antibodies from their mothers. And then the rest of the family was not vaccinated, ”she said. “So one of the things people don’t recognize is that by vaccinating yourself you are protecting your children who cannot be vaccinated. “

Dell Children's is part of an international study trying to find out more about MIS-C.
More than six hundred children and adolescents in the United States and Canada are part of the MUSIC study which will help doctors better understand MIS-C and how to treat it.

So far, six central Texas patients have enrolled in the MUSIC study, short for Long-Term Outcomes after the UMinflammatory system Ssyndrome Im VSchildren.

“The study was also great in helping us recognize that some of the treatment plans… in the intensive care unit,” said Dr. Hasbani, who is also the principal investigator of the MUSIC study.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is also studying cases in adults and said since June there have been several reports of similarities to what children are going through.

The CDC now identifies the disease as multisystem inflammatory syndrome (MIS) and has a section that affects children (MIS-C) and another for adults (MIS-A).

One death and several cases

In August, Austin Public Health said a child had died from COVID-19. This is the first death in the region since the start of the pandemic.

APH said while the child was vaccinated he had underlying health issues but would not disclose any further details. A spokesperson said the death was not linked to MIS-C.

The Texas Department of State Health Services reported in October 2020 a death from MIS-C – a San Antonio-area teenager – with underlying health issues, a DSHS spokesperson explained.

Across Texas, updated figures show 231 confirmed MIS cases, up 30 from just two weeks ago.

Children and adolescents aged 1 month to 18 years. Data shows that 52% of cases remain among those who are Hispanic and 24% among those who are black.

Nikko’s message

Nikko was recently cleared to receive the COVID-19 vaccine from his doctors and he hopes that sharing his experience will help other children and teens.

Nikko Dalesandro is back in school playing baseball after his long recovery from MIS-C. (Courtesy of Claudia Dalesandro)

“I’m just thankful that I’m still here and being here right now,” Nikko said. “I would highly recommend getting the vaccine and wearing a mask. So no one else can suffer like I have suffered.

Claudia and David were also diagnosed with COVID-19 in December and remember being sick for about two weeks. They said Nikko had mild symptoms at first and then about four weeks later it hit him hard. They are both also vaccinated and were able to get it after it became available to everyone.

“Honestly, I don’t want to see another parent go through the hospital what we’ve been through, especially without knowing what’s going on with your kids,” Claudia said. “Please be careful. Take it seriously – wear the mask – get vaccinated if you can.”

The Dalesandro family was able to get vaccinated after his availability. Nikko was recently cleared by his doctors to be vaccinated against COVID-19. (Courtesy of Claudia Dalesandro)

Both parents Dr Hasbani and Dr Hauger said the vaccine is the most effective way to avoid serious illness.

“Every day that we take risks, what risk do you want to take as a parent? Want to take the risk that your child will contract COVID and may have long-term complications? Or do we want to take the risk of the vaccine which, yes, can lead to short term complications such as fever, body aches, aching muscles, but largely prevents disease from occurring, ”Dr Hasbani said. “And so, as a parent, I see that this risk is significantly lower than the risk of the disease itself.

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