(CBS News) -While some cases of the coronavirus tend to be mild for children, more than one thousand children have developed multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C). It’s a rare but serious complication that can occur after COVID-19 infection.
4-year-old K.J. Griffin is the first child in the country to receive an experimental treatment for MIS-C. His mom, Talaiyah Stephens, cannot believe she came so close to losing him. “It’s not a good feeling. Not to watch your kid like that,” Stephens says.
In August, K.J. was getting sicker. He was sent home from one hospital, but when he spiked a 105 fever, his mom rushed him to MUSC Shawn Jenkins Children’s Hospital in Charleston, South Carolina. K.J. was suffering from MIS-C.
Dr. Allison Eckard, division director of pediatric infectious diseases at Medical University of South Carolina says, “His body was no longer pumping blood effectively to his vital organs, and they were starting to shut down.”
K.J. received high dose steroids, and aspirin, and plasma, as well as other drugs to help prevent blood clots. Doctors determined he was also a candidate for an experimental treatment called Remestemcel-L, which uses donor bone marrow cells to regulate the immune system. “It acts as if that person is making those cells themselves, and so they circulate in the blood and release anti-inflammatory cytokines,” Dr. Eckard says. “The thought is that not only does it turn down inflammation, but it actually repairs some of the damage that’s been done.”
Within 24 hours, K.J.’s cardiac function returned to normal. Dr. Eckard said they gave K.J. a second infusion a couple days later, “because his markers of inflammation were still very high. But within another 24 hours, they’d started to come down, and he was soon able to be discharged from the hospital.”
K.J. continues to recover. His mom says, “He’s basically in perfect health, you would have never thought he was sick just a couple of months ago.”
Since the pandemic began, there have been 1,163 cases of MIS-C in the U.S. and 20 deaths, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.