Illinois toddler fights for life as COVID transmission rages

October 6 (Reuters) – When her two-year-old started feeling sick early last week, Tiffany Jackson didn’t think it could be COVID-19.

No one else in the family was sick. Adrian James just coughed a bit. She gave him cough syrup and put a humidifier in her room.

But on Friday he was sweaty and his breathing was difficult. Jackson took him to the emergency room in his small town of Mt. Vernon, Illinois. Doctors and nurses took a chest x-ray there and swabbed it for COVID – then airlifted the child to Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital in St. Louis, about 80 miles away.

Jackson was following in the car, his grandmother at the wheel. They made the trip usually 90 minutes in about an hour.

“I didn’t know if he would make it or not,” Jackson said. “I was very emotional and just very upset.”

Her boy is one of nearly 840,000 children under the age of four to contract COVID-19 in the United States, according to statistics from the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). COVID-19 vaccines have not been approved for young children, and the United States is ravaged by a spate of cases caused by the highly contagious Delta variant, of which Adrian has.

Late Tuesday night, he was intubated and heavily sedated, wrapped in his baby blanket with his favorite Paw Patrol stuffed animal close at hand.

Over the past two days, his lungs have been able to do more work of breathing, and it is possible that he will be removed from the ventilator soon.

The United States passed the 700,000 death mark from COVID last week, and concern is growing over the number of infections in children.

Transmission of the virus remains high in all U.S. states except California, according to CDC data.


Adrian, who will be three years old next month, had developed pneumonia in his left lung. He was breathing rapidly, trying to swallow air at 76 breaths per minute, nearly double the normal 40, Jackson said.

At the hospital, doctors and nurses wearing masks, face shields and gowns sedated him and put him on a breathing tube attached to a ventilator in the intensive care unit.

Jackson sleeps on a couch in his intensive care room.

Jackson doesn’t know how his boy got the virus. She had COVID last summer; no one else in the family caught it at that time.

Jackson is not vaccinated against COVID-19 because she suffers from a rare autoimmune disease called Guillain-Barre syndrome contracted from a flu shot when she was 16 years old. The syndrome, which is incurable, causes damage to the nervous system.

Adrian’s father, who is at home with their youngest child in Illinois, received one dose of the COVID vaccine but not the second dose, she said. Maybe, she thinks, someone at work passed it on to her, although everyone in the factory where he is employed is expected to wear masks and practice physical distancing.

Jackson, 21, is deeply grateful for the care her child received. She begins to believe that this will save her life.

And she hopes Adrian’s story will help people understand what it might mean to pass the virus on to young children and people with vulnerable immune systems.

“I just want people to realize this is serious,” she said.

Reporting by Sharon Bernstein in Sacramento, California. Additional reporting by Callaghan O’Hare in St. Louis. Editing by Donna Bryson, Robert Birsel

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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