Aprende community rallies for COVID-19-stricken girl The Chandler Arizonan

Aprende community rallies for COVID-19-stricken girl

Aprende community rallies for COVID-19-stricken girl
City News
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By PAUL MARYNIAK
Arizonan Executive Editor

As debates continue over opening schools and children’s susceptibility to COVID-19, Marissa King has been living one of the worst nightmares the pandemic can wreak on a parent.

The Ahwatukee woman’s 12-year-old daughter Joelle nearly died less than a month ago from the coronavirus, subjected to a variety of injections as doctors worked to save her life.

But even amid the anxiety caused by her daughter’s illness, King has been heartened by the response of people in general and the parents and staff at Aprende Middle School in Chandler, where Joelle is in seventh grade and her brother Ryan is starting eighth grade.

Throughout her and her daughter’s ordeal, King said, Joelle has been buoyed by the love and support she’s received from teachers and students at Aprende.

“Every single one of teachers from kindergarten until now sent her video messages of encouragement and support and love,” King said. “That was a big thing for her because there was a point where Joelle was like ‘I’m giving up; I can’t do it.’

“But it was that love and continual support and check-ins from the school principal, the nurses, the librarians, the teachers, the advisors – they all came out and have been showing so much love and support in Zoom meetings. That was a big thing for her.”

“Not only is it hard to see one of your students or your kids go through the physical aspect of COVID,” she added, “but there is a lot of emotional and mental strain with that as well.”

King and Joelle still confront an uncertain future fraught with the aftershocks of their COVID-19 nightmare.

King is on unpaid leave from work so she can care for her daughter – as well as her son, who fortunately escaped infection.

She and Joelle face rounds upon rounds of visits to medical specialists, who have yet to determine the coronavirus’ long-term impact on some of the youngster’s internal organs, particularly her heart.

Then there are the pandemic effects that even kids who haven’t been infected are struggling with: living life largely within the confines of home, hanging out with friends only through an LED screen and a cellphone.

“It’s a big deal and people need to realize that kids are just as susceptible – and sometimes even more so,” said King, adding that her daughter has no underlying medical conditions that would have predisposed her to some of COVID-19’s worst effects – effects that may haunt her for months and possibly years.

A family friend, Amanda Schneider, started a fundraiser on GoFundMe.com to raise $20,000 to help the single mom and her two kids.

“With the cost of a five-day course of Remdesivir being upwards of $3,000, uncertainly of when she can return to work, needing to support her mom and other child at home and increasing medical bills, Marissa could use some financial support to ease the overwhelming burden she is facing,” Schneider wrote on GoFundMe.com, adding that King “was hesitant to do this, but agreed at the urging of her friends.”

So far, the site has raised nearly $13,000 of a $20,000 goal.

“As a friend and one who loves this family,” Schneider wrote on the website, “being able to take off some of the financial stress Marissa is facing would allow her to focus more fully on supporting her daughter as she fights and recovers from this awful virus.”

King does not know how Joelle contracted the virus.

The youngster was in Texas last month when she contracted it.

She began feeling sluggish and feverish around July 12, and five days later was in a Texas hospital after testing positive for COVID-19. She had recorded a fever of 104 and a blood oxygen level in the 80s – below normal 95-100 percent level that doctors consider healthy.

Doctors also found her suffering from pneumonia and multisystem inflammatory syndrome, or MIS-C – a rare complication of coronavirus in children manifested by inflammation in one of more organs, including the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, skin, eyes, stomach and intestines.

MIS-C has been under study by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which says on its website:

“We do not yet know what causes MIS-C. However, many children with MIS-C had the virus that causes COVID-19, or had been around someone with COVID-19.”

Besides being treated with the experimental drug Remdesivir – which, though not yet approved by the Food and Drug Administration, has proven effective speeding the recovery from COVID-19 – Joelle also had to be treated with an anti-clotting drug, two antibiotics and steroid injections.

“They had to treat her like she was an adult,” King said. “She’s 12 years old but like a lot of kids these days doesn’t look her age. She’s very tall and so based on that, they had top treat her differently and were giving her adult doses and that’s what really turned it around for her.”

After her release from the hospital, Joelle was not allowed to fly back to Arizona. So, her mother drove her back from Texas in four or five-hour increments over four days because King had to closely monitor her for fear of blood clots caused by MIS-C.

“I made sure we made enough stops to get her out of the care and just stretch,” said King, who herself had had a mild case of COVID-19 in June that was unrelated to her daughter’s infection.

“I was just coming out of my own isolation and quarantine phase when she got sick in Texas, but the infectious disease doctor said that because I had built up so many antibodies from being sick myself that my secondary exposure rate was very low.”

When they made it home July 31, Joelle had to be confined to her room the first part of last week because doctors advised she stay in quarantine until at least the early part of last week.

Besides, her older brother has asthma and King’s mother had undergone treatment last year for lung cancer, so both family members were at high risk for contracting the coronavirus.

For a few days when they got home and Joelle was stuck in her room, the family practiced social distancing and wore masks, using walkie-talkies to communicate with the girl.

When she emerged from quarantine last week, Joelle’s ordeal was far from over.

Besides seeing her pediatric physician, she also must see a hematologist for her blood clots; a cardiologist to assess her heart and blood pressure; a pulmonologist to assess her lung capacity in the aftermath of the pneumonia.

Joelle has to do breathing exercises, make sure she hydrates and wear compression stockings for the blood clots.

King considers the Aprende community’s  outpouring of support a turning point in Joelle’s recovery.

“You can have all the medication and everything,” she said, “but if you don’t have the will and strength too, your body is going to give up. I definitely feel that that support she got made a huge difference.”

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