16-month-old had enlarged liver and spleen due to COVID-19, mom says

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- More than 454,000 people have died from COVID-19 and the infection rate is through the roof. While most are thinking about the older and compromised populations, a Houston mother is waving a red flag, saying we need to think about children too.

When 16-month-old Karter Settle went into Texas Children's Hospital West Campus 15 days ago, her parents never imagined the nightmare she'd have to endure. They still don't know how she got COVID-19, but they want everyone to stay vigilant and protect their little ones.

SEE ALSO: Family warns of rare illness linked to COVID-19 after 8-year-old son hospitalized

"The cry. I can't even begin to describe the type of cry that she had. It was something that I never heard. And, she didn't eat for several days. That's not like her, so to see your baby laying there and they're nothing like themselves, it's heartbreaking," Dale Settle said.

Karter's journey started a couple of weeks ago when she had a fever for five days straight. On the sixth day, her parents took her to urgent care and they were quickly transferred to Texas Children's.

SEE ALSO: 5-year-old daughter of first responders dies from COVID-19 complications

"While we waited for the test results, we had no idea what was wrong with her because she had an enlarged liver, enlarged kidney, spleen and she also had low iron," Settle continued.

Turns out, it was COVID-19, which caused Karter's body to have all those other reactions. She had to have EKG's, a blood transfusion, and even had to learn to walk again.

"We started off, even as pediatricians, thinking that children would be fine, and we would escape this pandemic without having a lot of pediatric admissions, but that hasn't, at least for Texas, proven to be true," Dr. Amy Arrington, ICU physician with Texas Children's told ABC13.

SEE ALSO: Doctors seeing more severe COVID-19 symptoms in children

ABC13 was there when Karter was finally released from the hospital. Because of strict protocol, it was the second time she'd seen her dad in weeks, and the first time she'd seen the bright, warm sun. Settle encourages everyone to keep their guard up, even with babies and toddlers.

"No one is exempt. It doesn't matter if you're older, younger. Karter is healthy," Settle said. "She doesn't have any pre-existing conditions or anything like that, so for her to have COVID-19 - and not just to have it - but to experience some of the symptoms that she did, goes to show no one is exempt."

Even though most establishments say kids 10 and up should wear a mask, pediatricians say two and up should be masked. Texas Children's Hospital said most children contract the virus within their household from immediate or extended family.

Data from Harris County and the City of Houston show that kids nine years old or younger make up about one in 10 of their cases each week. Since April/May 2020, in our area, cases in that age group have gone up three-fold.

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