Coronavirus: Baby's life-threatening reaction to Covid-19

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Mother Hannah in PPE with baby LeiaImage source, Hannah Godwin
Image caption,
The illness left baby Leia fighting for her life in hospital

A mother has described the agony of being left to just "watch and wait" as her baby developed a rare illness linked to coronavirus.

At first medics feared baby Leia had meningitis or sepsis, but it emerged she was fighting an inflammatory reaction to Covid-19.

It has taken doctors three weeks to stabilise the infant, from Risca in south Wales.

Leia's mother Hannah said she was told her daughter - an identical twin to sister Thea - was one of less than 30 children in the whole of the UK who had developed symptoms similar to Kawasaki disease, when she was first taken to the Royal Gwent Hospital in Newport at the end of April.

Image source, Hannah Godwin
Image caption,
Leia - on the right - is twin sister to baby Thea

It is thought there are now about 100 cases of the syndrome, and doctors are still trying to find out why the reaction to Covid-19 affects some children in this way.

"We decided to take her into out-of-hours (GP surgery) to make sure, you know, there was nothing I've missed, but while there her temperature spiked," said Leia's mother.

"That's when they found the pin prick rash on her feet, which was what concerned them at the start.

"They weren't worried about anything like Kawasaki or Covid - it was far from their minds - they started treating straight away for sepsis and meningitis.

"And then, over the next few days, then it got really difficult for her to breathe, she got transferred to critical care."

Image source, Hannah Godwin
Image caption,
Medics were first worried Leia's rash could have been a sign of sepsis

Leia needed a high-flow breathing tube and a feeding tube.

"She went through a really, really scary time. It just went really out of hand, really quickly," said her mother.

It was the next day when the world was warned about the mysterious syndrome affecting children with suspected coronavirus.

"As we sat down and had our first meeting with the consultant and the special disease consultant, they sat down and they said 'we don't know if this is gonna work, this is our line of attack, this is what we think is best'," added Hannah.

"Straight away they were liaising with everyone who was going through similar cases."

As well as the rash spreading across Leia's body, the baby's arteries began to swell.

The family were told some had a reached life-threatening size.

"The consultant was very, very honest with me and said: 'If there's a rupture she's not going to survive'. They're trying to get them back down, she's on all types of medication to stop any clotting or build-up or heart attacks or anything like that.

"We just watch and wait, that's the phrase with Leia."

Image source, Hannah Godwin
Image caption,
Leia became seriously ill as the reaction to Covid-19 progressed

After initial treatment in Newport, Leia was moved to the Noah's Ark Children's Hospital for Wales in Cardiff.

She tested positive for antibodies to Covid-19, and has been treated in isolation.

"All she sees is masks. It's the worst time, you're not allowed your partner with you, you're not allowed any family visiting. You're on your own going through it. It is horrendous," added Hannah.

She has been sharing the bedside vigils with father Simon, while they also juggle parenting duties for Leia's twin sister, and older sisters Nia, 12, and Gracie, 9.

Image source, Hannah Godwin
Image caption,
On the mend - the family hope Leia can be reunited with her sisters at home soon

They now hope Leia will be allowed home in the next few days - but she faces a long road to recovery, and will need her heart monitored for the rest of her life.

Leia's mother said other parents should be aware of the risk coronavirus poses to younger children - and seek medical help.

"You've got to take them, you cannot be scared of picking up the virus. I mean you might have already been in contact with it," she said.

"You have to take them to the doctor's, if you think there's something wrong with them.

"God knows what could have happened if she hadn't had the treatment she had early on."

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