A 6-year-old boy who lives in the Pleasant Hill community in eastern Wilkes County is hospitalized in Winston-Salem with a COVID-19–related syndrome that so far has baffled doctors.
Lucas “Luke” Markle is a patient in the pediatric intermediate care unit of Brenner’s Children’s Hospital with a condition called Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C). Doctors told Luke’s family that MIS-C is often seen in children four to six weeks after they contract COVID-19, the illness caused by the novel coronavirus.
Lucas apparently contracted COVID-19 a month or two ago but was asymptomatic, and no one in his family has had the virus, according to his mother, Brittany Markle, who said she has more questions than answers at this point.
“We don’t know the long-term effects of MIS-C,” Brittany posted Friday on Facebook. “Lucas will be followed for weeks and months to come. I have no idea when he will be discharged from the hospital. I have no idea how this will affect him in the future. I have no idea about a lot of things.”
Lucas was set to begin remote-only learning on Aug. 17 as a first-grader at C.B. Eller Elementary School in Pleasant Hill. Now, that plan is uncertain as he is under the care of several doctors at Brenner’s.
“I encourage each and every parent to have a serious discussion about sending your children (to) school this fall,” implored Brittany.
Lucas’s grandmother, Mary Lankford of Millers Creek, is a former teacher in Wilkes County Schools who is coming out of retirement this fall to tutor at Wilkesboro Elementary School while wearing a mask and face shield.
“I’m very nervous about going back but I enjoy working with children,” said Lankford. “I like the fact that (the Wilkes schools) are doing the 50% Plan B (in which pools of students at each school alternate in-class learning days) and giving the parents the option of total remote learning.”
The first symptoms
When Lucas woke up on Aug. 1 with a fever, cough and chills. Brittany immediately took him to urgent care at Hugh Chatham Memorial Hospital in Elkin.
He was swabbed for COVID-19 but doctors told Brittany it most likely wasn’t anything serious, so they discharged Lucas and instructed Brittany to alternate doses of Motrin and Tylenol to reduce his fever.
However, two days later, the fever hadn’t subsided, and at one point reached 104. “I watched his temperature climb to scare numbers,” said Brittany. “I watched my normally rambunctious boy not move from the couch for 24 hours.”
On Aug. 3 Brittany drove a dehydrated Lucas to Brenner’s for fluids and a chest X-ray, expecting he would be released in hours. However, doctors found his heart rate was high and his blood pressure was low, so they admitted him.
A rapid COVID-19 test came back negative. Around midnight, though, Lucas’s vitals took a turn for the worse and a pediatric response team rushed in his room to stabilize him.
Lucas’s vitals and lab work results improved, but he remains in the intermediate care unit with a rash and inflammation over his entire body.
“He is really struggling,” said Brittany on Friday morning. “He’s very lethargic, in pain and the steroids are causing some serious changes in mood. I will be happy when I get my little boy back.”
Stumped by the syndrome
Lucas has been seen by an infectious disease doctor, a pediatrician, rheumatologist, cardiologist and hematologist, and while they’re in agreement that he and possibly other family members had COVID-19 but were asymptomatic, they don’t have a clear set of answers of how to treat him for MIS-C.
“There is not a lot of information or literature on this because it’s so new,” Brittany noted. “For those who think COVID is a hoax or ‘no worse than the flu’ or ‘kids don’t get COVID,’ picture sleepless nights, extreme anxiety, feelings of utter helplessness and that pit in your stomach because you just don’t know what will happen.”
The only certainty, Brittany said, is that she is surrounded and supported by amazing people. “The physicians and staff at Brenner’s are amazing, and that is an understatement. I am lucky enough to have a room at the Ronald McDonald House (of Winston-Salem) and I am overwhelmed by their generosity and the program.”
Brittany said her family has supported her in ways that have “floored me, to my aunt sitting with me in the ED during her shift at the hospital, to goodie bags, to financial support while I’m here, to wonderful messages and texts.”
She said friends have prayed for them and asked daily what they can do to help. Her boyfriend, Corey Huffman, has made sure she eats “even when I don’t want to, and he listens as I cry. Anything I could say in appreciation to all of them would be an understatement.”
Brittany said Friday afternoon that Lucas was showing signs of improvement. “When I saw Lucas this morning he smiled and hugged me for the first time in days. He ran around his room, laughed and made jokes.”
Lucas and his lab results are both looking better, she said, and the doctors think he may be able to be discharged Saturday. He would continue taking several medications at home and have several follow-up visits with his specialists.
“We got this,” exclaimed Brittany. “We are so happy.”
How to help
A GoFundMe account was created Thursday by Blake Markle of Elkin, Lucas’s uncle. As of Friday morning, 40 people had donated $1,635 toward the $2,000 fundraising goal.
The fundraising page is at https://www.gofundme.com/f/caring-support-for-lucas-markle?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=p_cf+share-flow-1&fbclid=IwAR1fYPU0hXVdlzC64vaLw1pPcZtZcf83EivQQrl3W9fWeNMlsvZXVMGByV8.
Blake Markle said that asking for financial help is necessary because the family knows that medical bills and follow-up appointments are in Lucas’s future. “The last thing we want during a time (Brittany) is worried about her Lucas’s health is for her to also worry about financials. We are thankful for all who have supported so far and who will support in the future.”
He said the family cannot wait to have that “wild 6-year-old boy back home digging for bugs.”