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'COVID is never done with you,' Michigan teen treated for rare syndrome linked to coronavirus

MIS-C is a rare inflammatory syndrome that doctors are seeing mainly in children who have had COVID-19.

About a month after testing positive for COVID-19, a West Michigan teen wound up hospitalized for five days with a rare inflammatory syndrome linked to the virus.  

Makendric Bowman, better known as Mack, first tested positive for coronavirus in October. His symptoms were mild. But, he'd later be diagnosed with multi system inflammatory syndrome in children or MIS-C, a syndrome doctors are seeing primarily in teens who have contracted COVID-19, that can impair the way vital organs function. 

"It happened so quickly. That's what was shocking," said Mack's mom, Angela Bowman. "Within a few hours, he was unable to do almost anything. He could barely stand."

Spectrum Health has treated 10 patients with MIS-C throughout the pandemic. Similar complications led to the recent death of another Grand Rapids teen. 

RELATED: Grand Rapids girl dies from COVID-19 after nearly 2 weeks hospitalized

When Mack tested positive for COVID-19, his parents were surprised by how little it impacted him. 

"The only symptom he experienced was loss of taste and smell. We checked his temperature every day. We looked for any other symptom, it was just taste and smell," said his dad, J.J. Bowman.

After a 14-day quarantine and a negative test, Mack, a senior at Rockford High School, returned to school and to football. Weeks later, the 17-year-old woke up without an appetite. In the next few days, he would develop a 104 degree fever, a lump in his neck from a swollen lymph node and a rash. He also started vomiting. 

"Honestly, I didn't really think anything too much of it, because it just felt like a normal flu," Mack said.

His parents took him to Helen DeVos Children's Hospital on Friday, Nov. 13, at the advice of their pediatrician. It was there that he was diagnosed with MIS-C, and his condition grew progressively worse. 

The syndrome impacted his kidneys, lungs, heart and skin. His eyes turned red and his lips swelled. He was placed on oxygen when his levels dipped dangerously low due to fluid building in his lungs. 

The first few days at the hospital were the worst. Mack recalls it feeling like he couldn't ever catch his breath. 

"I couldn't sleep. Everything ached and hurt. I couldn't breathe," Mack said.  

"It was just relentless. One organ then another then another, and it was just tearing through his body," said his mother. "It was terrifying."

After several days of treatment at Helen DeVos, Mack's condition started to improve. He was stabilized and able to go home on Wednesday, but his treatment continues. He will receive two shots and three types of medication each day for at least the next 12 weeks, along with reduced physical activity. 

The cause of MIS-C is not yet known, but Spectrum Health doctors have reported seeing it in children between two and eight weeks after they've had COVID-19.

The Bowman's are relieved to have Mack back at home. As of Monday, he felt fatigued, but his medication continues to work. 

In sharing their story, the Bowman's say they hope to shed light on the unknowns and remind other families to take precautions. 

"We just need to be careful, because, you know, I really believed that COVID once it was over, it was over," Angela Bowman said. "It's not, though, that's not how this works. COVID is never done with you." 

"And we only know right now that this is how far it has affected our son," she said. "I don't know going forward six months, six years, I don't know what's going to happen, we don't know, because there's not enough research because it's not an old enough illness." 


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