CORONAVIRUS

First Iowa child diagnosed with rare disease linked to coronavirus released from hospital

8-year-old Cedar Rapids boy discharged after 9-day hospital stay

Fortune Djagni, 8, is cheered by hospital staff as he leaves his room Friday with his father, Kokou Djagni, at the Unity
Fortune Djagni, 8, is cheered by hospital staff as he leaves his room Friday with his father, Kokou Djagni, at the UnityPoint Health St. Luke’s Center for Women’s and Children’s Health in Cedar Rapids. Fortune had a brief illness in March, then was admitted to the hospital May 13 and was the first patient in Iowa diagnosed with pediatric multisystem inflammatory syndrome, also known as multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
/

CEDAR RAPIDS — The first child in Iowa to be diagnosed with the rare inflammatory syndrome linked to coronavirus infection was released Friday from UnityPoint Health-St. Luke’s Hospital.

Fortune Djagni, 8, of Cedar Rapids, was released after nine days in the hospital battling the multisystem inflammatory syndrome.

The rare, yet serious, post-viral condition affects hearts and other organs and appears in children and adolescents after an infection from the novel coronavirus. The condition often requires intensive care and can be life-threatening.

UnityPoint Health-Cedar Rapids announced this week it was caring for Fortune and another young Iowan with the condition, making them the first two cases reported in the state.

So far, they remain the only cases in Iowa, state public health officials confirmed Friday.

However, because this condition first appears a month or more after a COVID-19 infection, a St. Luke’s physician who cared for these patients warned more cases still could appear. He urged parents to be aware of their children’s’ health — especially if they could have been exposed.

“Be aware, be alert, but do not panic,” said Dr. Dilli Bhurtel, a pediatric cardiologist at St. Luke’s Hospital.

Health care providers were first alerted to this syndrome by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on May 14 after doctors in the United Kingdom reported dozens of cases appearing in children between four and six weeks after they were sickened with COVID-19.

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

The second Iowa pediatric patient with this condition, who was admitted to the hospital shortly after Fortune, was released earlier this week from St. Luke’s, officials there said.

Fortune was admitted to the hospital May 13, the day before the CDC issued the briefing.

Fortune first began exhibiting his illness May 9, said Kokou Djagni, his father. A usually happy and playful child, Fortune woke up lethargic and refused his breakfast. A low-grade fever began the next day that soon turned into a high temperature, along with red eyes and diarrhea.

By the time Fortune arrived at the emergency room, he was very sick, Bhurtel said. He had low blood pressure and his heart wasn’t working as well as it should.

“The first day, I knew it was very serious,” said 44-year-old Djagni, an immigrant from Togo. “That concerned me a lot, but as a man of faith, it’s out of my power whether I lose him. So I kept my faith.”

St. Luke’s clinicians were able to recognize the condition in Fortune quickly because they were aware enough of multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children, Bhurtel said.

Bhurtel, who had received part of his medical training in New York City, was in contact with colleagues who were caring for some of the first cases of the condition in the nation. The New York State Health Department reported last week at least three children had died and over 100 cases were being monitored in the state.

“We were keeping an eye out for this,” he said.

So when Fortune first arrived at St. Luke’s emergency room, he met every single criteria for the condition that Bhurtel’s fellow doctors in New York were telling him to watch for. Fortune’s antibody test confirmed the suspicions and he was admitted.

Though they never tested positive for COVID-19, Fortune’s family believes they fell ill with COVID-19 in mid-March.

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

Madoe Agbodan, Djagni’s wife and Fortune’s mother who works at Walmart, was the first to feel symptoms. A few days later, Djagni, owner of a small global importing business in Cedar Rapids, started losing taste and smell.

Late that month, about a week later, Fortune had a fever for one day, but otherwise had no other symptoms.

It wasn’t until after their illnesses passed that they realized it could have been COVID-19. However, when Djagni and Agbodan were tested, the results came back negative.

But now, Djagni said their family was thankful Fortune is back home, especially Fortune’s 10-year-old brother, Ouriel.

Djagni said his family took the pandemic seriously when the novel coronavirus was spreading across Iowa, But after Fortune’s illness, Djagni said he plans to emphasize to others the seriousness of the virus.

Especially as officials are reopening more parts of the state in the coming days, he said it’s important to remember that “we have lost people in our community.”

“There are those who still doubt whether all this is real, but it is real,” he said. “The coronavirus is out there and it’s not pleasant. It’s terrible and horrible.”

Bhurtel said parents concerned their children may have this condition should contact their doctor immediately. However, he said while it’s important to be mindful of the possibility, parents should not panic because it remains rare.

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

He emphasized the importance of continuing social distancing measures and other steps to avoid infection, such as washing hands often.

“Because that’s the one thing we do know, and it’s if we didn’t get this virus, this post-infection process won’t happen,” Bhurtel said.

Symptoms of multisystem inflammatory disorder in children and adolescents include:

• Persistent fever

• Conjunctivitis, or pink eye

• Rash

• Enlarged lymph nodes

• Swollen hands or feet

• Abdominal pain without explanation

• Vomiting and/or diarrhea.

Comments: (319) 398-8469; michaela.ramm@thegazette.com

Support our coverage

Our most important Coronavirus coverage is free to the public.

If you believe local news is essential, especially during this crisis, please donate. Your contribution will support news resources to cover the impact of the pandemic on our local communities.

All donations are tax-deductible.

Support our coverage

Our most important Coronavirus coverage is free to the public.

If you believe local news is essential, especially during this crisis, please donate. Your contribution will support news resources to cover the impact of the pandemic on our local communities.

All donations are tax-deductible.