It was October 2000, Ciara was six months old and had been a perfectly healthy baby girl - up until then. One day she woke up with a 104 + fever that Tylenol or Motrin wouldn't lower, a transient rash on her tummy, swollen pink hands and bloodshot eyes. During that day she vomited several times and refused her bottle. That night, upon her arrival at the emergency room at a local regional hospital, several diagnosis from meningitis to the flu were discussed. They admitted Ciara that night, kept her for 4 days, hydrated her and ran a myriad of tests. On the last day of her stay there, her fever finally began to decline somewhat and her physical symptoms began to slowly disappear. Clinically she looked worse according to her daily lab work.
Our pediatricians and the hospital could not figure it out. So, she was discharged to go home but continued to have daily blood tests, which began to indicate a consistent rising platelet count. She was seen by a pediatric oncologist at the regional hospital who speculated it could be leukemia, spinal column tumors or juvenile rheumatoid arthritis - none of which he seemed to have much conviction in. It was a mystery to them and they said it could very well just be a strange virus that seemed to be going away on its own.
On the 9th day of her illness, at home, Ciara continued to be lethargic, ran a low-grade fever of 102. I frantically researched her symptoms on the internet and it became very apparent that her daily increasing platelet count could cause an aneurysm or perhaps even a stroke. At one point Ciara's platelet count was three times the normal level.
My research into her symptoms pointed to something called "Kawasaki Disease". The online information said this required an echocardiogram to evaluate the child's heart and then gamma globulin therapy had to be administered before the 10th day from the onset of the fever to prevent permanent heart damage. I learned that in our area, the only place for a child to receive an echocardiogram was Children's Hospital Oakland.
We drove Ciara straight to Children's Hospital where the echocardiogram immediately determined it was Kawasaki's Disease. We were within 12 hours of the timeframe they could administer the gamma globulin to save Ciara's heart. Dr. Saba, Ciara's cardiologist at Children's Hospital, was simply wonderful. I believe he and the staff at Children's Hospital kept our daughter's heart as lovely and perfect as it was before and continues to be. Since our initial stay at Children's Hospital, Ciara has had a few follow-up visits with Dr. Saba. Her heart was not damaged thanks to their quick and decisive action. Ciara is able to run, and jump and play as if she had never had Kawasaki's Disease. We will be forever grateful to Children's Hospital for making this possible.