HAY SPRINGS, Neb. (KELO) — A Nebraska family, living near the South Dakota border, has experienced the toughest month of their lives.
In mid-November, the Whitton family contracted COVID-19 and their youngest child, 4-month-old Cullen months old, was airlifted to Denver after his brain started swelling.
“The body aches and then the headaches; My daughter had horrible body aches and headaches and we had to wrap her in ice packs. Our son Cullen started having a cough and he was just really grumpy,” Hillary Whitton said.
Hillary was most worried about 7-year-old Hayden because he has asthma. However, it was Cullen who kept getting worse. Doctors said children under the age of one are at higher risk for severe illness with COVID-19.
“I woke up at three in the morning and he was so fussy and wouldn’t feed. I noticed I was rubbing his head—the top of his head was bulging out of his soft spot,” Hillary said.
She took Cullen to the closest emergency room.
“We got into the hospital and the rash just started spreading all over his front, up his back and all over his face. With his rash and him not feeding and with his bulging spot, I needed to get him to Denver Children’s because his brain is swelling,” Hillary said.
Cullen was airlifted to Children’s Hospital Colorado, where he underwent a series of tests.
“They called it a bulging fontanel, which they said they typically see in severe viruses in meningitis and stuff like that. They said it’s essentially fluid around the brain causing your brain to swell and puts pressure on your cranium,” said Hillary.
She said Cullen tested negative for everything else and doctors couldn’t find another explanation for the swelling.
Doctors ruled out a brain bleed and sent Cullen home.
“The first week was miserable. The swelling never went down, He was very upset,” said Hillary.
She tries to keep Cullen elevated as much as possible.
“He has his good moments where the swelling is down and he’ll be happy and a normal baby and then the swelling will come back,” Hillary said. “A lot of times we wake up in the morning and his head is swollen.”
Hillary said they’ve been encouraged to see a pediatric neurologist because the swelling could have life-long effects on him.
The Whitton family is sharing Cullen’s story to warn other parents about potential brain swelling in infants from COVID-19.
“I’ve had at least a dozen moms come out and tell me their infant had the same thing and they were turned away at hospitals because they were saying this is no symptom. It’s hard to see your baby go through that. It is,” Hillary said.
One thing that made the whole ordeal especially tough was how sick everyone in the Whitton family was at the time this happened. Hillary says the entire community has rallied behind her family. There is also a GoFundMe page set up to help with Cullen’s medical expenses.