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health battle ‘Our 5-year-old is in hospital with Covid-linked illness’ - grandmother warns parents to be aware of symptoms

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Tommy O'Neill (5), who has been hospitalised with a Covid-related illness.

Tommy O'Neill (5), who has been hospitalised with a Covid-related illness.

Tommy O'Neill (5), who has been hospitalised with a Covid-related illness.

A GRANDMOTHER who feared her five-year-old grandson would die after becoming seriously ill with a ‘Covid-19 related disease’ is warning parents to be aware of symptoms.

Tommy O’Neill (5) from Clondalkin, Dublin, became severely ill after complaining of a “belly ache” and a minor finger injury last Thursday.

The usually “lively” child had a high temperature that couldn’t be lowered with paracetamol.

Tommy’s grandmother, Bernie Brennan, said: “Tommy is my life, he’s a healthy, lively, handsome little boy.

“He went from having a stomach ache and a high temperature to being in ICU at Crumlin (Hospital). I was worried he was going to die and all I was able to do was stand outside the hospital, crying in the rain.

“Tommy is never sick, he’s a healthy little child. No-one I have spoken to has ever heard of PIMS, the Covid-19 related disease he’s been diagnosed with.

“I need every single parent across Ireland, every grandparent, aunt, uncle and teacher, to know about it because this is a serious disease.

“My grandson never had any symptoms of ever having had Covid-19.”

Tommy was being treated in ICU at Our Lady’s Hospital in Crumlin over the weekend. However, this evening, he was moved out of ICU. Ms Brennan said they have been told to “take things hour by hour”.

His mother Leanne Brennan is at his side and he has been moved to a ward this evening.

PIMS (paediatric inflammatory multisystem syndrome) has been described as a “Covid-related illness” – a rare but potentially deadly inflammatory disease in several countries.

The Royal College of Paediatrics (RCPCH) in the UK describes PIMS as “the Covid-19 linked syndrome affecting children.” It states that most children and teenagers do not become seriously ill with Covid-19 but doctors have witnessed a small number of cases that seem to be linked to the virus.

The family, including Tommy’s mother Leanne and father Sean O’Neill, who is by her little boy’s side in hospital, are very concerned that many parents, grandparents and teachers across Ireland, may not know about the disease.

The child, who attends St Mary’s National School, Rowlagh, Dublin 22, originally had a finger injury, so was first taken to Tallaght University Hospital on Thursday.

According to his grandmother Bernie, once medics there realised he had a high temperature and stomach ache, they were advised to take the child to Crumlin.

Bernie and Tommy’s mother Leanne rushed to Crumlin, where the child was placed on a drip and his blood was taken.

“A nurse and a young doctor said they were not happy, that Tommy wasn’t responding to treatment,” Bernie said. “They took Tommy for a heart scan. Later they told us he had this Covid-19 related condition, we’d never heard of, PIMS. We couldn’t believe it. Tommy has never been sick.

“He’s never had symptoms of Covid-19 and here he is with a serious Covid-19 related disease.

“He had Covid tests in hospital and they came back negative. No-one around Tommy has been sick, so we just don’t understand.

“I truly believe the doctors and nurses at Crumlin are angels. I believe they’ve saved Tommy.

“And I can’t thank them enough. They knew what this was straight away and that meant he was treated quickly.

“But there are other children severely ill in ICU and I need every parent in Ireland to know about not just Covid, but Covid-19 related PIMS.

“The doctors and nurses were expecting children to get sick with this. It’s happened after every wave.

“They were expecting to see these cases and thank God they knew.

“But we now need every single parent and grandparent, every aunt and uncle and teacher to know.

“During this pandemic we’ve all been scared for our older people, our jobs, our homes, but we had thought children were mostly fine.

“Tommy has not been fine. We need to worry for our children too. We thought Tommy would die two days ago.

“Everyone was crying. No one has been able to eat. And the only one able to be with him is his poor mam, who’s exhausted.

“My little charmer, my cheeky chops, Tommy is my life, he’s all our lives.

“He’s a beautiful blond-haired, brown-eyed boy and he’s so intelligent, so full of life.

“No mother should have to watch their child suffer like this. Please everyone be aware of these conditions and act as soon as they happen.”

PIMS and Kawasaki disease have similar symptoms. Both illnesses are rare, however.

Children have shown symptoms including a rash or signs of inflammation around the mouth, hands or feet, shock or low blood pressure, heart problems, evidence of a bleeding disorder and acute gastrointestinal problems.

In May 2020, Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan said PIMS occurs in around 15 in every 100,000.

PIMS is described on the HSE's website as: "A life threatening disorder caused by an unusual response to an infection by your body's immune system… A very small number of children who have Covid-19 have needed hospital treatment for an inflammatory syndrome called paediatric inflammatory multisystem syndrome (PIMS)."

The website notes: "It is similar to Kawasaki disease or toxic shock syndrome and is very rare.

“Children who now need hospital treatment for PIMS are being tested for the virus. This is a precaution."

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