MACOMB TOWNSHIP, Mich. — When Michelle Elkhoury's 4-year-old daughter spiked a low-grade fever in mid-March, she didn't panic.
Juliana had been attending preschool virtually, and Michelle and her husband, John, had been working from home for a year while caring for 2-year-old daughter Alexandria. No one in the family showed signs of COVID-19 symptoms, the mother said.
Despite routine doses of Tylenol, Juliana's fever lasted for six days, and Michelle took her to the family's pediatrician twice. Elkhoury began to worry more when her rambunctious toddler spent an entire day napping on the couch instead of playing. Then, her lips turned bright red and rashes broke out on her hands and feet.
Juliana initially tested negative for COVID-19 and showed no signs of respiratory distress, but her condition quickly worsened. She was hospitalized on March 20.
As the arteries around her heart swelled, her kidneys began failing and her hemoglobin levels dropped, doctors diagnosed her with multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children, often referred to as MIS-C, a rare and dangerous malady found in kids ages 2 to 15 weeks after they have contracted COVID-19.
Juliana, who spent nearly a week in the intensive care unit, is slowly recovering at home. But her fight last month with a syndrome that can limit blood flow and damage the heart, kidneys and other organs in kids came as Michigan's COVID-19 case rates for children under age 19 reached an all-time high and are now four times what they were a month ago.
"It was extremely serious and super scary as a parent because up until being admitted into the hospital, we had no idea that anyone in our house was even infected with COVID, let alone our 4-year-old daughter who wasn't in school," said Michelle, 36, of Macomb Township.
"It was terrifying."
Juliana's doctor, Dr. Bishara Freij, chief of pediatric infectious disease at Beaumont Children's in Royal Oak, said the hospital is being aggressive in treating children diagnosed with the syndrome.
"At Beaumont, we're proactive. If a child looks like they have MIS-C, we are now just admitting them to the ICU because they invariably deteriorate after admission. When you admit them, they're either sick enough already, or will get sick enough shortly thereafter," Freij said.