Kawasaki Disease Appears To Be On The Rise In Children

A rare illness appears to have been impacting more young children since the Covid-19 pandemic – and doctors are desperate for people to donate blood plasma to help treat it.

Kawasaki disease is a condition which causes swelling of the blood vessels throughout the body.

It mainly affects children under the age of five and, without treatment, around one in four will go on to develop heart complications. The illness is the leading cause of heart failure in children.

Bella Hessey, from Bicester, needed lifesaving treatment after developing Kawasaki disease in 2020 when she was just 11 months old.

Her mum Abigail Baker, 26, tells HuffPost UK: “She stopped eating, drinking, she was covered in a rash and the whites of her eyes were red.

“She was extremely lethargic and wouldn’t get off of me for over a week before she was diagnosed.”

Abigail Baker (right) and her family.
Abigail Baker (right) and her family.

The fraught mum says she took Bella to hospital three or four times before she was finally diagnosed with suspected Kawasaki disease.

“I felt helpless, lost and like no one was listening to me,” says Baker.

Bella was transported to a different hospital where she received her first round of immunoglobulin.

The tiny tot had suffered some bulges in the blood vessels around her heart. Where one artery should have been 1-2mm wide, it was 12mm wide.

The immunoglobulin treatment had an almost immediate effect on her, says her mum, who works as a recruitment consultant.

“By the next day she was eating, drinking, playing and babbling away to me again – the rash had completely gone and it was like my little girl was back with me,” she says.

“Without immunoglobulin I don’t think she would have made it. She is my little miracle.”

Bella is now three and doing much better.
Bella is now three and doing much better.

Prior to Bella’s diagnosis, Baker had never heard of Kawasaki disease. “Now I try every day to raise awareness so no parent has to go through what I did – and no child has to go through what Bella did,” she says.

Bella had to have multiple heart scans after the ordeal and suffered a cardiac arrest. “She went into intensive care and we were told she wouldn’t make the night,” Baker recalls.

Thankfully, Bella has since gone on to make a slow and steady recovery. “Everyone always says ‘take a day at a time’ but we were taking an hour at a time just to get us through,” Baker says.

“She now doesn’t have any blood clots and has gone from taking 12 medications a day to only two.

“She is the strongest little girl in the world and will always be my inspiration.”

Her daughter has weakened coronary artery walls, says Baker, “but should go on to live a healthy, happy life”.

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