Watching your child learn to walk, run, and play can be truly meaningful memories for many parents. Dr. Robert Beattie never expected to one day be watching his son relearn these tasks.
“The biggest part of the recovery was just him learning to walk and jump and do basic kid stuff again because he had been in bed for so long.”
Two weeks before Oli’s fourth birthday, he had a stomachache that wasn’t going away. His parents, Robert and Maria Cristina, brought Oli to emergency at HSC Children’s Hospital. Oli’s health worsened rapidly, and he was soon showing rashes across his body. Robert and Maria Cristina later found out these were classic symptoms of Kawasaki Disease.
Kawasaki disease is an autoimmune disorder, usually affecting one in 100,000 kids. The direct cause of the disease is unknown, but it has become relatively common in children exposed to COVID-19. Oli’s parents suspect he may have been one of the many children who had COVID-19 without showing any symptoms.
The disease can cause the blood vessels to become inflamed and swollen, which leads to complications in blood supply to the heart, amongst other issues. It primarily affects children under five.
“For the first half of his time in hospital, his health was just continuing to deteriorate.”
Robert says Oli lost up to a third of his weight, and his muscles atrophied from being in bed constantly. Another challenge for Oli’s parents was that he is an identical twin and he looked dramatically different from his brother, Alex, due to the disease.
Treatment was Intravenous Immune Globulin (IVIG), a serum collected from the general population to help boost the immune system of children who do not have enough antibodies. Usually, one dose is enough for a child, but Oli was unresponsive to the first dose.
After a round of steroids and a second dose of IVIG, Oli began to respond.
“Having to see my son go through that, and see him in the hospital for thirteen days, over his birthday, was more than tough,” says Robert.
Robert, who is a research scientist at the Children’s Hospital Research Institute of Manitoba (CHRIM) with a lab exploring what makes the human brain unique at a cellular and molecular level, says it is one thing to read about these experiences but experiencing them creates an entirely different relationship with both the hospital and the kids.
“We were really thankful to have great staff. They went above and beyond to help.”
Today, Oli is healthy and enjoys his time in school. During the summer of 2022, Robert, Oli, and Alex opened a lemonade stand. While some kids are happy to make a few dollars to save up for something special, Oli and Alex raised over $625 for the Children’s Hospital Foundation in support of research.
“When Oli was in the hospital, he knew how other kids and donors had helped him, and this was his way to give back,” Robert says.
Robert says thinking back on the time Oli was in the hospital is a challenge, but he is grateful for all the help, support, and effort hospital staff went through to make the family feel comfortable during such a challenging time.
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