When Maple Ridge resident Zoë Olson woke up with body aches on Tuesday, April 27, she thought she was coming down with the flu, but nothing more.
Even so, when the 19-year-old woke up with a fever the next morning, she made her way to the COVID-19 testing sight to make sure.
She got her results from the Centre for Disease Control the following day: negative.
However, her condition went from bad to worse.
“It went from a fever to nauseousness, to extreme body aches, to extreme nauseousness,” explained Olson.
When she woke up Sunday morning she was having a difficult time breathing.
Little did she know she was suffering from a rare complication from COVID-19: multi-system inflammatory syndrome, MIS-C.
“I didn’t really want to take her to the hospital because it was just the flu,” said her father, Joel Olson, explaining that they didn’t think it was anything more because of the negative COVID-19 test.
But on Sunday the heart rate alarm went off on Olson’s smart watch.
Her father asked her what the monitor recorded and Olson said 120 beats per minute. So he double checked her pulse and discovered it was actually at 130 beats per minute.
“She had chest pain, she had trouble breathing, she had a high heart rate, and when I Googled that it said go to the hospital immediately,” he continued.
They went straight to Ridge Meadows Hospital emergency where only Olson was allowed in. There she was given another COVID-19 test and various blood tests and received intravenous fluid. She would have to text her parents periodically to keep them updated to her condition.
“We were lucky because she was able to text us and kind of give us updates. We were pretty, kind of in the loop. But she still had all the IV’s in her arm, she had this huge IV in her neck that went to her heart,” said her father.
“She’s texting that there’s five doctors standing outside my curtain trying to figure out what’s wrong with me,” he added.
Again, her COVID test came back negative.
Then doctors decided to take some X-rays of her organs and discovered they were inflamed.
They thought maybe it was appendicitis, but with her blood pressure being low and her heart rate high, doctors determined her symptoms matched most of the symptoms listed for MIS-C – a condition mostly seen in children who have contracted COVID-19 where, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – different body parts become inflamed including the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, skin, eyes, or gastrointestinal organs.
The syndrome, rare in children, even more rare in adults, can be serious, even deadly, noted the CDC, but most children who have been diagnosed with this condition have become better with medical care.
Olson was sent to Royal Columbian Hospital in New Westminster. Her parents met her as she was being transferred into the ambulance.
“We didn’t know at Royal Columbian if we’ld be allowed to see her. We went to the parking lot and stood outside the door so that when they wheeled her out to the ambulance we could see her,” explained her father.
As they watched her go, paramedics turned the lights and sirens on as they headed towards Lougheed Highway on Laity Street.
“That was probably the scariest part,” said Dad, because they weren’t expecting her to be rushed there.
At Royal Columbian, doctors ran more tests, including a test of her antibodies and they figured out that Olson had contracted COVID up to a month before. So they immediately began treating her for MIS-C.
With negative COVID results, her parents were allowed to visit.
“I was pretty tired for most of it. I slept a lot,” said the teen who has since been released from hospital.
They treated her from Sunday to Friday, the first few days in the intensive care unit where she was put on oxygen and hooked up to heart monitors.
“She was pretty drugged up for most of the time I think for the pain,” said her father.
Olson was released from hospital on Friday, May 7, and still feels a little tired and weak.
She is also nervous there will be some long-term effects.
However, doctors are continuing to monitor her to make sure her organs don’t become inflamed again and that her heart is in good shape.
Her next appointment is in two weeks.
When Olson is given the OK she will be getting her vaccine, something she is very much looking forward to.
“Right now since my immune is so down, it wouldn’t be fully effective,” she explained.
And she is encouraging others to get the vaccine as well – to avoid ending up in hospital like she did.
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