Mother urges parents to be ‘vigilant’ after baby dies from rare illness

The mother of an eight-month-old baby who died of a rare illness being linked to Covid-19 has urged parents to be “vigilant” to the symptoms, and called for more research into the disease.

Alexander Parsons, from Plymouth, died at Bristol Children’s Hospital last month after being diagnosed with Kawasaki disease, his family said.

Medical experts believe up to 100 children in the UK have been affected by a condition similar to the rare disease, symptoms of which include a high temperature, rashes and swelling.

Alexander Parsons and his parents, Kathryn Rowlands and Jon Parsons (Family handout/PA)

Researchers have said the new syndrome could be caused by the immune system overreacting to coronavirus.

Alexander’s mother, Kathryn Rowlands, 29, told the PA news agency that she hopes to raise awareness while calling for parents to “be really vigilant, be really aware of the symptoms and look out for them”.

“I can’t change anything about what happened to Alexander; we thought we were taking all of the precautions to protect ourselves and him from Covid-19, and it still happened to us,” she said.

“We were in isolation, we weren’t even risking going to a shop because we were concerned, and it still happened to us.

“It can happen to anyone and I can’t change what has happened to him, but I can make other parents aware and potentially help other babies and children.”

Ms Rowlands called 111 when Alexander began to show a high temperature, a pinprick rash that looked like sunburn and a swelling in his lymph nodes.

He was admitted to Derriford Hospital in Plymouth in the first week of April and received treatment for Kawasaki disease, before being discharged home on April 18.

Alexander developed a rash across his back, which spread to the rest of his body (Family handout/PA Wire)
Alexander developed a rash across his back, which spread to the rest of his body (Family handout/PA)

Due to restrictions on hospital visits in response to the coronavirus crisis, Ms Rowlands and partner Jon Parsons, 30, were not able to visit their only child on the ward at the same time.

“He was really, really happy (after being discharged), it was the first time since it had all started that he was able to spend time with both me and Jon together,” she said.

But Alexander was re-admitted to hospital on April 21 and, following a heart scan, was transferred to Bristol Children’s Hospital.

On April 25, Ms Rowlands said the couple were told Alexander had multiple giant aneurysms and fluid around the heart.

Despite the diagnosis, she said he was smiling and playing with both of his parents that afternoon but his condition deteriorated in the evening.

“It was just something different about his crying that made me think I need to pace around, sing to him, he really needs to calm down,” Ms Rowlands said.

“I had taken two or three steps when his head went back and I knew something was wrong.”

Medical staff spent nearly an hour trying to revive Alexander, who had no underlying health conditions, but he died after suffering a ruptured aneurysm.

Although he tested negative for Covid-19 four times while in hospital, an antibody test is being conducted which will show if he previously had the virus.

“The doctors and nurses were fantastic and they followed the guidelines that they had based on what was available to them at the time,” Ms Rowlands said.

Ms Rowlands urged parents to be "vigilant" of the symptoms (Family handout/PA Wire)
Kathryn Rowlands urged parents to be ‘vigilant’ to the symptoms (Family handout/PA)

“But if there was more research then in these particular cases it might be tackled more aggressively, because this seems to be a more aggressive version of Kawasaki disease.”

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said last month that experts are investigating the new syndrome in children “with great urgency” but has stressed it is rare.

Ms Rowlands said the family are awaiting the results of a post-mortem examination and are planning Alexander’s funeral for the start of June.

“He was infectiously smiley, he loved so much and received that ten-fold from his entire family who adored him,” she said.

“He never stopped laughing and smiling, even through this illness and teething and normal colds babies get, he was an absolute pleasure.

“I constantly felt so lucky that I got to be his mum and he will always be the best thing I have ever done.”

A crowdfunding page has been set up by the family to raise awareness of the illness. You can donate here: https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/hannah-rowlands-1

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