While Theresa Lawson has recently been flooded with media attention for her 13-year-old son Anthony’s survival of a rare disease, known right now as pediatric multisystem inflammatory syndrome (PMIS), which is being found in children that have had COVID-19, what has really amazed her is support from the community at home— in the Bothell/Woodinville area.
The Canyon Park Middle School PTA organized a car parade for Anthony Lawson’s birthday on Saturday, May 30. A parade of over 100 cars, including vintage hot rods from Woodinville Car Club, first responders and decorated vehicles came out to honk and say “Happy Birthday” in a socially-distanced way.
It wasn’t a day they knew that they would see.
Symptoms looked like allergies at first, she said, in early May: headache, itchy eyes. By day three he was much worse, and by day four they took him to urgent care. They swabbed him for COVID-19 and found him negative, but Theresa Lawson wishes they would have looked for issues beyond that. Because not long after they returned home, he started showing worse symptoms, unable to get out of bed and lethargic. His eyes were completely bloodshot and said he couldn’t see.
“Like something you would see out of a horror movie,” Theresa Lawson said.
They decided they weren’t going to wait, they drove him to Providence Hospital around 1 a.m. Quickly something terrible started happening at the hospital. His organs were failing and he was having cardiac failure.
Just a week before that, he was a healthy, athletic teenager. Theresa Lawson said the doctor told her what was happening could be fatal.
Then they learned Anthony Lawson had the antibodies that showed at one point he had COVID-19, which Theresa Lawson Lawson believes was likely back in January.
Anthony Lawson is a student at Northshore School District, one of the first in the area to cancel in-person classes before Gov. Jay Inslee’s order that impacted the remainder of the school year. Since then the family had been careful, staying at home and practicing self-isolation since their daughter has a recently-diagnosed autoimmune disease.
After about a week of keeping Anthony alive at Seattle Children’s Hospital, Theresa Lawson learned about the rare mystery disease that has impacted young people who had COVID-19. When doctors started giving him the treatment other patients with this disease were getting, he finally started to stabilize.
Even though it seemed like he was getting better, his body continued to fight itself, Theresa Lawson said, but they were lucky to have doctors there around the clock.
The whole thing, ending with Anthony finally being able to return home, happened in about three weeks. Theresa Lawson said what catches them off-guard is that if he had coronavirus months ago, why did the disease hit now? Right now they don’t have answers.
“You’re grateful to have your child home. Two weeks ago I didn’t think we were ever going to see (his birthday),” Theresa Lawson said. “To have gotten to where we are now, where he’s home, we’re so happy. But there’s still a lot of worry.”
Those worries include the very little information there is right now about the long-term impacts of Anthony’s condition.
They had no intentions of speaking out about the illness, but Theresa Lawson said they wanted to be able to give their own experience of how the disease manifested in Anthony’s case, which is different than other reports of fevers and more. Lawson has heard from dozens of concerned families and parents asking for her opinion on their child’s illness. Sometimes she’s up all night responding to messages.
She said it’s important to remember how rare Anthony’s case was, and that while she is not a doctor, people should take their children to the hospital if they feel something is wrong. In this case, early intervention may have been what saved Anthony’s life.
She hasn’t had the downtime or privilege to cry much since Anthony was in the hospital, Theresa Lawson said, except for when she hears on the news about children who had what he did, but didn’t survive.
“There is no support group for this— someone who knows what it’s like to be in this spot,” Theresa Lawson said.
As members of the Bothell community. Theresa Lawson said they never want any other family to go through what they did. They hope sharing Anthony’s story and being the subject of national news can help save others. And they’ve received good thoughts and well wishes from all over the world and especially in Bothell.
Theresa Lawson said one thing she wants those in the community to know is that now is the time to be kind, courteous and patient during this pandemic. For the Lawsons’, Anthony’s illness will never be a political issue. But they have had people tell her son they refuse to wear masks. They ask: does it really hurt to put on a mask?
She said as a realtor, her strength has always been to see both sides of the table. But in the case of those who are concerned that their rights are being taken away because of prevention measures in place for coronavirus, like closed businesses and wearing masks, she wishes she could show them the agony that her son went through. She doesn’t want to invoke fear, but wants people to take this disease seriously.
“People need to get back to just being human,” Theresa Lawson said. “The thing I was most surprised about was the well wishes came from all backgrounds all over the world. We aren’t as different as we think we are.”
Now, Anthony Lawson says he is looking at his situation as a second chance at life. And he has a car-parade of support from the Bothell community.
The family has a GoFundMe to support expenses, available here. As of the writing of this article they had raised $7,645 of their $20,000 goal.