Triple whammy: Nine-year-old boy in Singapore suffers Covid-19, myocarditis and stroke


Matt Aeron Semodio, nine, was warded at KK Women's and Children's Hospital on Feb 22 for the third time this year. - ST

SINGAPORE: At the start of 2024, nine-year-old Matt Aeron Semodio was looking forward to a new school year and counting down to the release of a new Godzilla movie.

But from Jan 4, normal life has been on hold for him, as he suffered through Covid-19, myocarditis – inflammation of the heart muscle – and a stroke that weakened his left side.

He was taken to the Children’s Emergency at KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital in the evening of Jan 4, after complaining of extreme fatigue.

As the night progressed, he was admitted to intensive care. His heart failed and he had to be hooked up to a form of life support known as extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO), which temporarily does the job of the heart and lungs.

His parents, Noel Semodio, 48, and Desiree Reyes, 42, recall being told that the medical team worked for over an hour to resuscitate their son.

Reyes says: “We were informed that he might not make it because of the long period of time that they had been trying to revive him. But we didn’t lose hope.”

Matt was on ECMO till Jan 16, and spent time in the high dependency unit and general ward of KKH before being discharged on Feb 8. He will need physiotherapy and occupational therapy to recover from the myocarditis and stroke he suffered.

He has also been readmitted to the hospital twice since that initial five-week stay.

He was readmitted on Feb 11 for three days because of another viral infection.

On Feb 22, he vomited blood and was hospitalised at KKH for the third time this year. Doctors suspect yet another viral infection, according to his parents.

Semodio says that he now jumps if Matt even hiccups. “After everything he’s gone through, you can’t take anything lightly.”

The family is currently crowdfunding to pay Matt’s medical bills (str.sg/BnNd). They do not know the full amount given the repeated hospital stays, but Reyes says it will be a six-figure sum, and insurance and savings are unlikely to be enough.

She is a permanent resident here while Semodio is on an employment pass. Both are from the Philippines and work at the same IT company.

Matt and his three-year-old brother are on dependant’s passes, which means Matt may not qualify for subsidised rates.

The parents say the medical reports indicate that Matt suffered myocarditis induced by Covid-19.

Associate Professor Mok Yee Hui, head and senior consultant of KKH’s Children’s Intensive Care Unit, says myocarditis can be caused by viral or bacterial infections; parasitic infections; or autoimmune diseases that would mistakenly lead the immune system to attack the heart tissue.

Associate Professor Jonathan Choo, head and senior consultant of KKH’s Cardiology Service, says that while Covid-19 can infect the cells of the heart, leading to inflammation and damage, “it is rare and most patients with Covid-19 do not develop myocarditis”.

Matt’s parents do not know how their son could have contracted Covid-19. Reyes tested Matt and herself before returning to Singapore on Jan 4 from a holiday in the Philippines. They were both negative.

However, Matt tested positive for Covid-19 while hospitalised. He had never been infected before, though both his parents have had Covid-19.

Matt is unvaccinated against Covid-19 because his parents were worried that the vaccination could lead to myocarditis. “The reverse happened,” Reyes says.

In October 2023, The Straits Times reported the Ministry of Health as saying that the incidence of vaccine-related myocarditis has remained rare, with reporting rates of one per 100,000 doses (0.001 per cent) for the monovalent vaccines and 0.4 per 100,000 doses (0.0004 per cent) for the bivalent vaccines.

Prof Choo of KKH says the post-discharge therapeutic regime for someone with myocarditis would include medication to optimise heart function and reduce heart inflammation and blood clots.

He adds that patients will need to gradually restore movement and function, and should avoid strenuous activities. “They are given follow-up appointments with a cardiologist to monitor the heart function and physical progress, and treatment plans are adjusted accordingly.”

Despite repeat hospitalisations, Matt was in good spirits when The Straits Times met him on Feb 22.

The fourth-grader at a private educational institute in Singapore was focused on watching Godzilla videos on a tablet. A fan of dinosaurs, he held his favourite stuffed dinosaur Cyan for comfort while in intensive care.

“I like Godzilla because he has blue atomic breath. It’s also radioactive,” says Matt. He is looking forward to catching Hollywood movie Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire when it opens in Singapore cinemas on March 28.

Semodio says Matt asked to holiday in Japan instead of the Philippines in December, to catch the Japanese movie Godzilla Minus One (2023). It was released in Japan but not in Singapore.

“Maybe if we had gone to Japan, this wouldn’t have happened,” Semodio says. “I keep thinking about that.” - The Straits Times/ANN

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Singapore , children , stroke , covid-19

   

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