Chicago mom urges vaccination after daughter catches COVID, then comes down with rare illness

The new year started out healthy for the Oliver family from South Shore. Then, 7-year-old Heather spiked a fever.

"I didn't understand. How do we go from a fever to a near-death experience so quickly? Nobody knew. It was like the mystery diagnosis," said Heather's mother, Shannon Oliver.

The little girl's condition worsened quickly, landing her in the ICU for six days.

"She just was really sick immediately. They said her heart wasn't pumping blood like it should because it was inflamed. So everything essentially was out of whack in her body," said Oliver.

Oliver says her daughter had COVID-19 back in November, when many family members got sick. That clue helped doctors at UIC to diagnosis Heather with Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children, or MIS-C.

The CDC says symptoms include ongoing fever, plus more than one of the following:

  • Stomach pain
  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Diarrhea
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness (signs of low blood pressure)
  • Skin rash
  • Vomiting

Doctors say MIS-C hits four to eight weeks after COVID, so many parents don't connect the two.

"So it often feels like those sniffles that they had two months ago aren't related. But unfortunately, it's kind of their body rebelling against them," said Dr. Meghan Harding, pediatric intensive care unit physician at UI Health and associate professor of clinical pediatrics at UIC.


Doctor Harding says while MIS-C is quite rare, she saw three cases last week.

"This is the syndrome that us pediatricians worry about and this is why we're stressing the need to vaccinate your children and try to prevent them from getting COVID-19," said Dr. Harding.

Shannon Oliver just made sure her other children got vaccinated and encourages others to do the same. She says she thought Heather was going to die and doesn't want anyone else to go through this experience.

"I was very scared," Oliver said.

While Heather is back home, her mother says she's not back to normal. She's still on heart medication and doctors don't know the long-term outlook for kids with this COVID-related syndrome.