Nineteen days after being diagnosed with COVID-19, Jaxson Green woke up in the night grabbing his chest and complaining of not being able to breathe. He was rushed to the hospital in Clarinda and then on to Omaha to receive a diagnosis of myocarditis — the early stages of heart disease. Testing showed muscle damage in his heart. Doctors agreed that his bout with COVID-19 likely precipitated the attack.
Jaxson is 11 years old.
His mother, Heather Green, who has worked as a nurse, admits that before Jaxson’s ordeal, she was not that worried about COVID-19.
“I was teeter-tottering on believing if this was a serious pandemic or not,” she said. “I thought it was blown out of proportion.”
Now she warns parents and others to take it seriously, especially in children — who are typically seen as not as vulnerable to the disease. She said she often sees others who are wearing their masks under their nose or not maintaining six feet of social distancing.
“When I talk about it, they tend to take a step back or put on their masks right,” she said.
On Nov. 2, Jaxson had a fever and other symptoms of COVID-19 so his father Ben Green took him to be tested. That test was positive. But Jaxson was a healthy kid, never having spent a night in the hospital except for his birth. After a couple of days of fever, chills and headache, he bounced back from the disease, finished out his quarantine period and went back to school.
Friday evening Nov. 20, the fever was back. Heather told Ben to keep an eye on Jaxson and give him some Ibuprofen. He’d be fine.
At around 2:30 the next morning, Jaxson woke his father up saying he couldn’t breathe and grabbing his chest. An ambulance rushed him to the hospital in Clarinda where he showed signs of a heart attack. He was then transported to Children’s Hospital & Medical Center in Omaha.
Lab tests indicated damage to his heart muscle and showed inflammation. Fortunately, they also showed his heart was functioning well.
Monday, doctors wanted to move Jaxson out of the cardiac ward, but his fever returned and he began throwing up. The next day, he was able to move to another ward, but the hospital needed the bed so Wednesday, Nov. 25, he was released to his mother’s care. Heather said the doctors felt more comfortable because of her nursing background and asked that he stay with her while he was recovering.
Jaxson stayed home for school for three more weeks but after his follow-up was released to go back to in-person schooling.
Heather said Jaxson is mostly recovered from his illness. He will have to watch his activity levels for the next six months and take breaks if he feels winded. He also takes a baby aspirin every day along with acid reflux medication to keep the aspirin from affecting his stomach.
Boston Children’s Hospital asked to include Jaxson in its study of children who experienced heart complications from COVID-19. While he was in Omaha, Jaxson had DNA testing to find out if he had any markers that would have made him more susceptible to complications and other testing to see if the virus had mutated. The study aims to discover why certain children experience heart problems after seemingly recovering from COVID-19.
Those results are not back yet.
Doctors explained the preliminary findings show that COVID-19 attacks the body’s organs similarly to HIV and AIDS, attaching to weaknesses and causing the body to attack itself. Genetically related issues that may have shown up later in Jaxson’s life, such as high blood pressure and heart disease, may have been accelerated by the virus.
The Greens may not find out all of the results due to the nature of a blind study, where participants’ identifying information is kept separate from their test results. However, the doctors told Heather that if there are problems indicated by the genetic testing, she will be notified.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, Union County has had 1,062 positive cases of COVID-19, 933 of which have recovered. Union County has had 20 deaths. The county’s 14 day positivity rate is 12%.