THIS heart-wrenching photo of little Scarlett Nicholas shows the devastating effects of the new inflammatory syndrome linked to coronavirus.
The five-year-old can be seen fighting for her life in intensive care as she is treated for the condition similar to toxic shock syndrome (TSS) and Kawasaki disease – now known as PMIS.
Scarlett, from Wakefield, West Yorkshire, was given just a 20 per cent chance of survival after falling ill with the rare illness – days after contracting Covid-19.
Thankfully, the youngster defied the odds and is currently recovering at home with her mum Naomi Roberts and step-father Piers Roberts.
Scarlett’s family are now sharing her harrowing ordeal in a bid to raise awareness for the mysterious illness, which has left kids across the globe needing intensive care.
Speaking to The Sun Online, Scarlett’s step-dad Piers, a teacher, said: “We have been very, very lucky because Scarlett is still here – all because we have had amazing care from the NHS.
“It’s important parents trust the NHS to do the right thing – and know that this is a very rare condition.”
We have been very, very lucky because Scarlett is still here – all because we have had amazing care from the NHS
Scarlett’s nightmare ordeal began back in March when she was sent home from school feeling poorly.
Piers said: “It was in the first couple of days that the information on self-isolating was given out back in March.
“Scarlett had a temperature, she was nauseous but she had no rash.
“She was sent straight home from school and, given the situation, our family self-isolated.
“She was right as rain so we thought brilliant, we will all stay inside.
“Scarlett had never really been ill – she’s robust and has always been healthy – she’s never had much.”
Meanwhile, Scarlett’s mum, who is a doctor, went back to work where she tested positive for Covid-19 – and Piers also later tested positive for the virus.
“We were able to get tests quickly given Naomi was a frontline worker,” Piers said.
“We were all fine, then we thought we were all out the woods and we’d be fine.”
Scarlett appeared to have recovered from her brush with coronavirus until she began feeling poorly again a few weeks later.
“She developed very nondescript symptoms – a temperature, nausea – stuff you’d give a bit of Calpol for and then you get on with,” Piers said.
“But she has a mother who is a doctor and a step-dad who used to be a nurse so within 24 hours it was clear something wasn’t quite right – she wasn’t responding to things.”
Scarlett’s parents quickly took her to Pinderfields Hospital where she was swiftly tested in the back of a car.
A paediatric nurse came out to check on the youngster and noted that she looked “peaky” – and needed to go to A&E.
It was then that Scarlett’s condition dramatically deteriorated.
Piers said: “Very quickly Scarlett’s symptoms turned into a sepsis-like picture, but she also had some traditional Kawasaki symptoms.
“The doctors knew there had been a cluster of cases in London of this Kawasaki-like illness linked to Covid – we were very lucky that it was picked up so quickly, the clinicians were so quick.”
The condition, known as PMIS, has been likened to Kawasaki disease, which causes swelling of the heart’s blood vessels and generally impacts children under five.
Very quickly Scarlett’s symptoms turned into a sepsis-like picture
It’s thought to have affected between 20 to 30 kids in the UK, with around 12 needing intensive care treatment.
Doctors and infectious disease experts are still learning about the condition because it is still very new.
Medics swiftly transferred Scarlett over to Leeds “when her health really was really poor”.
Piers added: “The situation was very, very scary – she was on ventilation, she was given drugs to keep her alive.
“Her survival rate was very low – doctors banded about that her chance of surviving was 20 per cent but it is difficult for anyone to quantify. She was incredibly ill.”
‘She was incredibly ill’
Piers could not visit Scarlett because of coronavirus safety measures, and Naomi could not leave the hospital so stayed by Scarlett’s side almost 24 hours a day.
“When Naomi sent me pictures of Scarlett hooked up to wires, I was like ‘wow’- it’s surreal,” Piers said.
“Even though you know it’s her, your seeing it on a screen – it’s very surreal.
“I could only see her through Facetime or Whatsapp – it was frustrating – as her stepdad known her all her life I wanted to be by her bed side.”
Piers admits that there was a day or so where “it was really touch and go” as to whether Scarlett would survive – but thankfully she gradually began to show signs of progress.
What are the symptoms of the Kawasaki-like illness linked to Covid PMIS?
Health chiefs said in an alert to GPs the signs include:
- Stomach pain
- Gastrointestinal symptoms – like vomiting and diarrhoea
The mysterious condition has been compared to toxic shock syndrome (TSS) and Kawasaki disease.
The signs of TSS are:
- High temperature
- Flu-like symptoms, like headache, feeling cold, aches, sore throat and cough
- Feeling and being sick
- Widespread burn-like rash
- Lips, tongue, and whites of the eyes turning bright red
- Dizziness or fainting
- Difficulty breathing
Signs of Kawasaki disease include:
- A rash
- Swollen glands in the neck
- Dry, cracked lips
- Red fingers or toes
- Red eyes
She was taken off the ventilator and moved from the paediatric intensive care unit, where Piers said Scarlett received “incredible” care.
However, Piers says the most “surreal” moment was when Scarlett was finally allowed home.
He added: “When we were told she was discharged it was incredible – the first time I saw her in a couple of weeks it was an amazing thing, it was a swarm of emotions really.
“I think in that situation you cant really fully emotionally engage with it as it’s too overwhelming.”
Scarlett’s recovery is now being closely monitored by the hospital and she is still having regular scans as well as taking medication. The long-term side effects are still not clear.
It was massively traumatically for her and her mother
Piers said: “It’s an ongoing thing – there’s no clear way out of a trauma like that – it was massively traumatically for her and her mother.
“But she’s being very closely monitored and there’s psychological support that Leeds has put in place for her.
“We’re just amazingly grateful. I know many parents have had children with this new syndrome who haven’t fared as well.
“It makes us feel all the more grateful that we had two hospital trusts that communicated so well – they picked up Scarlett’s condition very, very quickly.”
Scarlett is currently unable to return to school given her health doesn’t allow it but her parents are hoping she can return when she is fit and well.
In particular, her step-dad, a teacher, said he believes kids should be back in school – despite the concern from councils.
He said: “I genuinely believe kids need to be in school – teachers and staff are making school 200 per cent safe to the best of their ability.
“Yes, the schools might not be what the children know but Covid-19 clearly effects children very mildly and what Scarlett had is very, very rare.
“It is a worry for parents – everyone is going to worry about something in this situation but my message would be is you have to trust that educators and schools and teachers are moving mountains to make sure children will be safe.
“Children are in safe hands and parents have to remember a lot of teachers are parents as well.”
If you are worried your child could be suffering from symptoms of the new Kawasaki-like illness, it is important to seek medical advice, as soon as possible.
Contact your GP or call NHS 111.
You can donate to The Mid Yorkshire Hospitals Charity who looked after Scarlett here.
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