Since the start of the pandemic, three people have died in Arizona related to a rare COVID-linked illness in children, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services.
A representative for ADHS told ABC15 they have received reports of three confirmed deaths related to multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children, or MIS-C. Citing privacy concerns, the agency would not disclose further details.
MIS-C is a very rare, but serious, condition that affects some children several weeks after a COVID-19 infection or exposure.
A Valley mom, Reanna Milliman, told ABC15 her daughter Raelynn, 8, was recently released from the hospital after spending more than two weeks in the ICU for MIS-C.
"She's just getting so much better and she's happy," Milliman said.
That wasn't the case in March, when Milliman said a fever and fatigue escalated and her daughter began suffering from severe gastrointestinal issues that landed Raelynn in the ICU.
"Speaking to the surgeon and them telling me that they're going to have to remove her entire colon...was an extremely hard thing for a mother to hear," she said.
Fortunately, Raelynn did not have to undergo the surgery, although she has also dealt with blood clots and is now seeing doctors on a regular basis as she recovers.
The Arizona Department of Health Services told ABC15 there have been 116 confirmed MIS-C cases in Arizona.
"Every time we had a surge of COVID-19 cases, that surge of COVID-19 cases was followed by a surge of MIS-C cases," said Dr. Wassim Ballan, a pediatric infectious diseases specialist at Phoenix Children's Hospital.
Dr. Ballan said fever is a main component to a MIS-C diagnosis, but other symptoms can include abdominal pain, vomiting, a rash or pink eyes, among others.
"Having a fever is a common thing," Dr. Ballan said. "That doesn't mean that every time a child has a fever we have to be super concerned about MIS-C. But it is something, definitely, to keep in mind while we're dealing with the pandemic, especially if there's a known [COVID-19] exposure that happened beforehand."
Milliman, whose daughter was treated at a different Valley hospital, said Raelynn is doing much better but still has an unclear road ahead as she continues to recover.
"Now she's able to eat normally and play normally and laugh normally," Milliman said. "In the hospital the doctors told me this is one of the worst cases that they've seen."
While a rare condition, Milliman hopes to raise awareness for other parents.
"Just be aware of those signs and don't take it lightly," she said.
Milliman still has a GoFundMe account to help her daughter, which you can find HERE.