What to Know
- New York City's Department of Health issued an alert Monday night, saying that 15 additional cases of multi-system inflammatory syndrome have been identified in children
- Doctors say parents should watch out for symptoms that include fever with a rash, red eyes and abdominal pain. Inflammation can send the body into a state of shock and cause organ failure
- Cases should be immediately reported to the New York City Health Department's Provider Access Line at 866-692-3641
Jayden Hardowar had been a seemingly healthy 8-year-old living in Richmond Hill, Queens, with his parents and three siblings. His mother, Navita, and father, Roup, said he was an active child who enjoyed biking and rollerblading. The 8-year-old Cub Scout had no underlying conditions, and no one in the family was thought to have been exposed to the coronavirus.
In late April, Jayden started having a fever and bouts of diarrhea. His parents took him to his pediatrician, and soon after he appeared to be responding well to Tylenol. Navita Hardowar said that his temperature broke after a few days, and he never showed any shortness of breath. Although his father said Jayden's strength hadn't really come back, they weren't overly worried as they believed it may be due to diarrhea.
"His body strength started to go down, he started to become a little bit weak," Roup Hardowar, Jayden's father and an employee for Con Edison, said. "We followed up with his pediatrician, and they thought that he would come around, maybe because he wasn't eating a lot."
On April 29, Jayden was in bed when he called for his mother. Navita said she got in the bed and turned on the TV when she heard him call out again for her, softly — which concerned her.
"I heard him call for mommy. Jayden has a strong voice when he calls for mommy, (but) his voice was very low," Navita said. "That voice grabbed my attention."
The mother said she moved closer into the bed, and noticed her child's head and hands were twisted in an unorthodox position backward.
"I quickly looked over at his face and his lips were all blue at that point, so right away I knew something was not right here with Jayden," Navita said. She started yelling his name, but he was not responding.
Struggling to find a pulse, Roup and Jayden's older brother Tyrone — a 15-year-old Boy Scout — began performing CPR as Navita called 911. She said the ambulance arrived within two minutes, and was soon rushing Jayden to Jamaica Hospital.
"As we moved on Atlantic Avenue, all I'm thinking in my mind is Jayden — is he gonna make it? Is he gonna make it?" said Roup.
From there he was transferred to Cohen Children's Hospital in Nassau County — where NBC New York first reported there have already been about 40 similar pediatric patients — and quickly was put on a ventilator in the intensive care unit.
“We are seeing these patients. We just admitted another two (Sunday) night. I have six in my intensive care unit right now who fit this criteria. And these kids can be very ill. What’s most alarming is when they develop this syndrome, the blood vessels can be affected and it can lead to severe heart illness," said Dr. James Schneider, head of pediatric critical care at the hospital.
It took just five days for an overall healthy boy to go from playing games and singing to requiring a machine to help him breathe for several days, unable to speak to his parents who tried to video chat with him from his hospital bed. His parents said he has inflammation and suffered from cardiac arrest and heart failure.
"It's still a nightmare thinking of where Jayden is right now. Last week about this time, we were all together having dinner, playing, working from home, teaching from home, learning from home," said Navita, a public school teacher. "One of the scariest things as a mother, we're at home thinking something like this will never happen to us."
The Long Island hospital performed multiple tests on Jayden, his parents said, and all came back negative — an encouraging sign, they thought. But after conducting the antibody test, doctors said the young boy had contracted COVID-19 at an earlier time.
Dad Roup still isn't sure how how his son could've contracted the virus. "None of us — six of us in the home: two adults, four kids — none of us had been sick. We've all been very strong and practicing our social distancing very diligently ... we thought we were safe," he said.
The rest of the family has since gotten the antibody testing done, and are waiting on the results to see if Jayden got it from any of them. They still cannot visit him, and if they want to see him, it must be done via video chat.
Thankfully Jayden was finally well enough to be taken off the ventilator over the weekend, three days after he was rushed to the hospital. While it was still difficult for him to speak, his parents said their boy was more responsive on Sunday when they spoke with him, and they are hoping to have him home soon.
Dr. James Schneider, who works at Cohen Children's Hospital, said two more patients were admitted Sunday night who have shown similar problems. They now have six such cases in the ICU. On Monday, top experts from around the world identified a new syndrome in children linked to COVID-19 inflammation that can send the body into a state of shock and cause organ failure.
Jane Newburger, director of the Kawasaki Program at Boston Children's Hospital, told NBC News this new ailment was being seen in multiple cities throughout the United States, and that there were unquestionably more cases than the 15 reported in New York City.
Mayor Bill de Blasio addressed the growing number of cases at his daily news conference Tuesday, saying it was a matter of "concern" to the city and reiterating new orders that any similar cases in kids under 21 be reported immediately.
The symptoms resemble Toxic Shock Syndrome and/or Kawasaki disease, experts say. Kawasaki is an autoimmune sickness that can be triggered by a viral infection and if not treated quickly, can cause life-threatening damage to the arteries and the heart.
The city's Department of Health issued an alert Monday night, saying that 15 additional cases have been identified in NYC and are asking for any new cases to be reported immediately.
Scott Gotlieb, former head of the FDA and a New York City emergency room physician, said the new cases appear to disprove the previous notion that coronavirus "wasn't really affecting kids."
"We certainly know that there are children who've been hospitalized, who have gotten very sick, but now it appears that there are some unusual phenomena that are affecting children - not in high numbers, these still appear to be small reports in the medical literature - but there are some unusual syndromes that children are developing, perhaps as a result of coronavirus," Gottlieb said on CNBC.
Jayden's parents said that the mystery surrounding the coronavirus, and what it can cause, is what makes it such a terrifying crisis.
"The fact that we don't know enough is very scary," Navita said. "It's a moment I don't ever want to relive or would like any parent to experience."
Her husband echoed her sentiment that more research is needed to figure out how exactly COVID-19 can do so much damage even to otherwise healthy people, especially children.
"Even the people supposed to be on top of it are not knowledgeable, they're still learning," Roup said, adding that he believes and trusts in the Centers for Disease Control. "Because it's new, more time and more money should be spent on this."
Roup also pinned faith on Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases who has been a leading voice on the pandemic. The father said what Fauci tells the American public can go a long way in helping spread information.
"A lot of parents believe what he says. Now we really want the top doctors to be on the news and to tell us more about how children are being affected now," Roup said.
As for advice for other parents to help prevent them from having to go through the same ordeal, doctors advise to watch for symptoms including fever with a rash, red eyes and abdominal pain. Roup said parents should monitor their children and stay alert if they are showing any signs of distress, because it could save lives.
"He was a little kid, lying in bed with his mom — and then he went into cardiac arrest," Roup said. "A cardiac arrest could have been avoided if we were in the hospital earlier and (caught) it earlier."