A one-year-old boy has suffered brain damage after his heart suddenly stopped while he was in his mother’s arms following an online COVID-19 diagnosis as the lockdown restricted access to the local hospital.
Hugo Dato was born in the municipality of Cartagena, which is located in the Spanish region of Murcia on 3rd November 2019.
He was just four months old when he became ill. It came at a time when Spain had just entered its first lockdown and the global pandemic was announced by officials in March 2020.
The baby started showing signs of a fever, conjunctivitis and redness of the skin.
Jose Maria Dato Cano, 35, his father, told Real Press: “We called the family doctor and as they did not see him face to face due to the spike in coronavirus cases, Hugo was diagnosed with coronavirus and had a prescription with medication for his fever and a solution for his eyes.”
According to the dad, the doctor also recommended that they avoid going to the health centre and to the emergencies at the hospital as they were overburdened and “if it was COVID-19, it was worse to take him there”.
As Hugo’s symptoms did not improve, his parents took him to a private practice where he was confirmed to be infected with a virus but it was not clear if it was COVID-19 as tests for it were not readily available.
The father said: “At the time, there were no PCR tests.”
The private doctor decided to prescribe Hugo antibiotics, which helped him recover and within 20 days, he was back to his normal happy self, for a time.
After that illness, Hugo kept on going with a normal life, and Dato added that they “had all the checkups and vaccines” for their son.
However, Hugo’s heart suddenly stopped working in his mother’s arms on 27th December.
The one-year-old was rushed to Santa Lucia hospital in the port city of Cartagena, where doctors managed to get a pulse.
Hugo was then transported to the Virgen de la Arrixaca University Clinical Hospital in the city of Murcia.
There, doctors found large aneurysms in Hugo’s heart which had also led to his health problems at four months old.
They were caused by a rare illness called Kawasaki syndrome, which causes a fever and an inflammation of blood vessels throughout the body. It is usually found in children aged five and below.
Maria Jesus Hernandez Guirao, 33, the tot’s mother explained that the boy could have been cured with a simple treatment but the doctors did not detect it because they assumed it was COVID-19 or a simple virus.
Hugo’s father explained that his son had all the symptoms of Kawasaki disease, which include fever, conjunctivitis, red marks on his skin, and chapped lips.
However, he added: “There are also symptoms inside the body like the fact that the veins dilate and if they are not cured in time, they can cause exactly what happened to Hugo.”
Hugo was cured of the rare illness at the hospital but the near-fatal incident has caused serious brain damage due to the lack of oxygen to his brain when his heart stopped.
His father explained that the time during which Hugo’s heart was stopped left severe brain damage and also required heart surgery.
Dato said: “He does not cry, he does not interact with us, he looks at us a bit, but he does not react to anything.”
Hugo was intubated in order to be fed. He is going to be released from hospital soon as doctors can do nothing more for him, according to his father.
Hugo’s dad explained that given that his son has to come home, they have looked for a private clinic to give him multidisciplinary treatment, with physiotherapists, a speech therapist, and child psychology and stimulations programmes.
However, the private clinic which is closest to their house is located in Alicante, and costs at least EUR 1,600 (GBP 1,384) every month, “although the price could be higher depending on the child”, the father added.
The family have started selling bracelets which can be bought from their Instagram page ‘Hugo_cree_en_ti’ (Hugo believes in you) for EUR 5 (GBP 4) each.
The father said that so far, they have managed to raise EUR 9,000 (GBP 7,767) through the website, and EUR 40,000 (GBP 34,523) through the sale of the bracelets, which will go towards Hugo’s treatment.
The parents said they are planning to sue the doctors and the hospitals, but that this will at a later date as they are currently focused on Hugo’s immediate wellbeing.