‘His bloodwork didn’t show this:’ Shelbyville teen develops inflammation syndrome after COVID-19

A year into the pandemic and new long-term effects from COVID-19 are still being discovered.
A year into the pandemic and new long-term effects from COVID-19 are still being discovered.(WSMV)
Updated: Apr. 1, 2021 at 9:13 AM CDT
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WSMV) - A year into the pandemic and new long-term effects from COVID-19 are still being discovered.

Seventeen-year-old Cayden Puckett of Shelbyville is helping to shed some light.

“In November I start showing my first signs of COVID. Which at the time, I had a very rare symptom with a rash. And we really had no idea where this was coming from, if it was a rash or allergic reaction,” he said.

That was Cayden’s first “uncommon” symptom.

After being tested twice, the Shelbyville Central High School Football player came back positive for COVID-19.

He started feeling relief by the end of December but things changed at the beginning of the year.

“I had extreme fatigue, just didn’t feel my normal self like there was something keeping me down physically, something that I couldn’t overcome and that’s when I knew we had to further investigate what was going on.”

He points specifically to his return to the weight room for football conditioning as at time he knew something was not right. Cayden says his body couldn’t handle the workout.

“It was a very frustrating process. There was just no relief. I could not feel better. Some of my symptoms such as the rash would just not go away. I had constant just visits of confusion, not knowing what’s going on, not knowing what’s going to help and eventually, after we kind of had enough all three of us not figuring it out, that’s when we decided to go to Vanderbilt’s Children Hospital and that’s when we started getting those answers.”

Cayden was diagnosed with MIS-C and post-COVID myocarditis.

His mom Erin Puckett added, “his blood work didn’t show this and he had to have the imaging done before they could diagnose and confirm what was going on. So I think that’s an important piece of the MIS-C.”

The CDC classifies MIS-C or Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in children as: a condition where different body parts can become inflamed, including the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, skin, eyes, or gastrointestinal organs. Children with MIS-C may have a fever and various symptoms, including abdominal (gut) pain, vomiting, diarrhea, neck pain, rash, bloodshot eyes, or feeling extra tired. We do not yet know what causes MIS-C. However, many children with MIS-C had the virus that causes COVID-19, or had been around someone with COVID-19.

News4 has previously reported on MIS-C.

Back in February, Vanderbilt’s Children Hospital reported it was treating about 30 children with MIS-C.

Right now, the CDC lists that there’s between 100-149 cases of MIS-C in Tennessee.

Cayden said the diagnosis was a relief. “I knew something was wrong and I was glad that I finally got answers. Being told that I was out of physical activity three to six months, which 3 months is June, 6 is September, was just very hard to hear at the time because I was out December ‘til February at this time and missing half a year going into your senior football season is pretty tough to even think about.”

Doctors are now telling Cayden he’s limited to most physical activity, “going to the mailbox needs to be the extent” of it so he’s still out of football for now.

Not playing also means Cayden is missing the bond he has with not just his teammates but with his Dad.

“Cayden learned how to read because he wanted to read the scroll on the ESPN,” said Erin. She continued, “I know there’s a sadness that they’re not being able to do this together right now. They’re not in the weight room for the last time together. They’re not preparing for Spring Ball for the last time together. And, but in this process, I’ve seen so many of the things that Josh has taught as a father and that Josh has taught as a coach that are helping Cayden be a leader in this process.”

Josh, who also coaches the football team, said it would mean the world to him to have Cayden playing again. “He’s one of the best players and a leader on the field. And so, I don’t want to take away from that, he’s earned that. And so that would mean a lot from that standpoint. But then just, I just want to see him around. I just miss having him you know.”

Cayden wants to be back in the field by the fall too. “I need to overcome this COVID illness plus what’s coming with it and at the same time I need to make sure I’m at a high enough standard to carry on my football carrier which I’ve worked toward forever,” he said.

His focus right now, however, is making sure other children and teenagers know about his story so they don’t struggle alone.

“This is not a life any kid or teenager wants to live, being in that room for half a year so just to prevent that, please tell anybody you can that’s somethings wrong and keep fighting until you find answers,” he said.

Cayden continued, “everybody around me understands my struggle and understands how hard this is. and that’s one of my main goals. is getting the awareness out so if anybody else has to go through this, they don’t have to go through the same journey I did.”

His mom is reassured that they’re in a great hospital and getting the best care, “but they’re also very honest and they don’t know, and we don’t know. And I think that’s part of what’s very hard for our family,” explained Erin. “We just have to trust right now that he will get better and that it will subside, the inflammation and that it will not lead to other things.”

The Pucketts shared that at least two other children in Shelbyville are also dealing with an MIS-C diagnosis.

Across the community, people are sharing pictures of Cayden in his football number 12 jersey and posting #WeGotYou12.

As of an appointment last week, they’re told Cayden’s inflammation still doesn’t look better and they won’t do a stress test yet.

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