Suffolk toddler 'could have died' from rare Covid-related illness

Joanna Holt, 39, with son Raphael, who is now recovering from the Covid-related illness PIMS-TS

Joanna Holt, 39, with son Raphael, who is now recovering from the Covid-related illness PIMS-TS - Credit: Joanna Holt

A Suffolk mother said she "could have lost" her three-year-old son after he was diagnosed with a rare Covid-related illness following infection. 

Joanna Holt, from Lowestoft, is now seeking to raise awareness of PIMS-TS (paediatric multisystem inflammatory syndrome) after her son, Raphael, developed the illness after contracting coronavirus. 

Ms Holt, 39, a mother-of-five, said the whole family caught Covid-19 in the second week of September but Raphael coped well with the virus and was able to recover after a couple of days. 

But around a month later, he developed a fever and his condition escalated very quickly.

Raphael Holt in hospital. The three-year-old is now recovering at home in Lowestoft

Raphael Holt in hospital. The three-year-old is now recovering at home in Lowestoft - Credit: Joanna Holt

She said: "I wasn't able to control the fever and he was complaining that his head, his eyes and his tummy hurt and we couldn't isolate where the problem was."

Initially doctors and paediatricians dismissed his illness as a viral infection but his condition did not improve over the next few days. 

"I was just so worried about him," Ms Holt said. "He wasn't eating, he was obviously very seriously unwell so I took him back myself to the hospital."

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Raphael was then admitted to the high dependency unit of the children's ward at James Paget Hospital in Gorleston, and diagnosed with PIMS-TS. 

The three-year-old was due to be transferred to Addenbrooke's Hospital but there were no beds, so experts from the Cambridge medical hub satellite managed his care, Ms Holt said. 

PIMS-TS is a new condition that can affect some children and young people between two to four weeks after they have had Covid-19.

The rare illness is a delayed reaction to the body trying to overcome the virus, and this causes swelling throughout the body.

Raphael prior to the illness. The three-year-old contracted Covid-19 in September before then suffering from PIMS-TS

Raphael prior to the illness. The three-year-old contracted Covid-19 in September before then suffering from PIMS-TS - Credit: Joanna Holt

Ms Holt said: "The children's immune systems go into overdrive and attack them. In Raphael's case, it attacked his brain, his heart, his spleen and his digestive tract."

Raphael returned home from hospital this week and is now on medication with a series of further appointments to follow. 

"They're going to keep a close on him, which I'm very thankful for, but I just wish I would have known it existed because the times I took him to the GP and A&E, I wouldn't have been dismissed so easily," Ms Holt added. 

"My boy could have died. The way they treated it, they had to stop his immune response and let it restart in a more healthy way. It it wasn't for that help, we could have lost him. 

"It just feels crazy that people don't know about it."

For more information and advice on PIMS-TS, click here

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