Following her family’s own harrowing experience, a Donegal mum is determined to raise awareness about Kawasaki Disease.
Speaking to Donegal Live, Sarah Harrigan from Burnfoot Inishowen stressed Kawasaki Disease is “a rare condition, which mainly affects children under the age of five.”
She added: “However, early recognition of Kawasaki symptoms in children is important in order to get the urgent medical help needed, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Kawasaki Disease is serious, more common than bacterial meningitis and is always regarded as a medical emergency.”
Paediatric inflammatory multisystem syndrome (Pims) is a Kawasaki-like, rare inflammatory condition linked to Covid-19.
Three children in the State have been diagnosed with Pims since March and seven more were being investigated this week, according to chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan.
The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control issued an alert for Pims following two reported deaths.
Sarah Harrigan recalled: “We had just come back from a family wedding in Mijas in Spain in June 2018. My daughter, Hannah, who was a few days off her second birthday, took sick about three days later. She came out in a horrible rash.
“I brought her to the GP. He said it was viral and told us to keep a wee eye on her and give her fluids and if she got any worse to bring her back to the surgery.
“So, Hannah’s eyes became very bloodshot and her form was not good. She was completely off her food. She was taking fluids OK, but Hannah is a very lovable child, she is great craic, but now she was just very quiet.
“On the second day, the rash had not subsided, and we weren’t happy, so we brought her back to the surgery. There was a student doctor there and she said it looked like Kawasaki Disease and they wanted us to go to Paediatric Ward of Letterkenny General Hospital (LUH),” said Sarah.
At that stage, Sarah said she panicked a little bit because she had never heard of the disease before.
Sarah added: “We went to LUH and they kept her in overnight and monitored her closely. Hannah improved the next day, but the rash was still there. Her form had improved, and she was eating her breakfast. The doctor said they were happy to discharge her if we were happy to take her home.
“I was relieved. We took her home, but she deteriorated really quickly then. So, we went back to the GP the next morning and Hannah was re-admitted to the Paediatric Ward, where they took bloods and Hannah’s inflammatory markers were high.
“Then her wee feet and hands became swollen and she developed Strawberry Tongue, a red rash at the tip of the tongue. The doctors knew then there was something badly wrong because her temperature had not come down and this was day three and a half.
“These were all the symptoms of Kawasaki Disease. The following day, they gave her one more day, because it’s consecutively for five days, and then we will have to intervene and give her intravenous immunoglobin, which is an intravenous antibody to fight infection. Hannah got the intravenous immunoglobin, which was quite severe because they had to monitor her every 15 minutes and it was during the night,” said Sarah.
Young Hannah received her treatment from 9.00pm.
She was monitored by LUH medical staff every 15 minutes for the first two hours and every half an hour for the next two hours.
Sarah said: “Hannah was then monitored every hour during the night. We were all exhausted. I don’t think I will ever forget that night. But, fair play to Hannah, she reacted brilliantly. The treatment really helped her. I think the intravenous immunoglobin treatment saved her.
“We were told the next day, you have to go in the ambulance to Crumlin so that Hannah could receive a heart scan to confirm that there had been no damage. Apparently, the inflammatory markers can attack the heart.
“We got the ambulance to Crumlin, myself and my husband, Brendan, and two ambulance drivers who were absolutely lovely. We waited a few hours on the scan but, thank God, there was no damage to her arteries. The doctor was very happy with her. The rash and the red eyes were still there, that went away after about seven days, but, all in all her wee self was grand.
“Hannah has been a happy healthy child since, thankfully. Crumlin discharged Hannah in August 2018 after a follow up heart scan and they told me she was very, very lucky. There are some children who contract Kawasaki Disease and they have heart problems for the rest of their lives. I genuinely think the student doctor who put Kawasaki Disease on the radar, and LUH acting quickly, and Crumlin, saved Hannah. It was phenomenal rollercoaster, those five days,” said a thankful Sarah.
Advising other parents and carers of young children Sarah said in terms of Kawasaki Disease, time is of the essence.
She added: “If you don’t catch it sooner rather than later, the damaging effects are long term.
“I would say to parents, persevere with your doctor if your parental instinct’s kick in that you are not happy about something. You know your child better than anybody. Take them back to the doctor. The rash for Kawasaki Disease is quite intense and it is the first sign which appears.
LUH told Sarah it sees approximately four cases of Kawasaki Disease a year.
Sarah added: If a child in Inishowen does contract Kawasaki Disease, I can say, they are definitely in the best place.
“I remember the nurse sitting me down and reassuring me. We are the lucky ones,” said an emotional Sarah.
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