Ballad Health becomes more concerned as pediatric COVID patient numbers climb | WJHL

JOHNSON CITY, Tennessee (WJHL) — There are now 11 pediatric COVID-19 patients at Niswonger Children’s Hospital, six of whom are in intensive care.

“We are terrified. The past few weeks have brought a tragedy that we hoped we would never have to experience,” said Dr. Myesa Emberesh, a pediatric oncologist/hematologist at the St. Jude Tri-Cities Affiliate Clinic. “We had the first immunocompromised child with COVID-19 in my clinic last week and we fear more will come.”

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28% of the patients Ballad treats or who have been recently diagnosed are under the age of 18 and that number is expected to increase.

Jamie Swift, the system’s chief infection prevention officer, says Tennessee has the highest number of childhood cases per 100,000 in the country.

— Anslee Daniel WJHL (@Anslee_WJHL) September 1, 2021

“The Tennessee Department of Health announced that Tennessee now has the highest number of childhood cases based on cumulative cases per 100,000 of the 48 states and two territories reporting data,” said Jamie Swift, Chief Infection Prevention Officer.

Those high numbers raise concerns about the capacity of hospitals and emergency rooms.

“It can be devastating for all children who need emergency care and face an overburdened emergency room,” he said. dr. emberesh. “That thought is terrifying to me and all my colleagues who work with vulnerable children every day.”

Ballad Health: 48 COVID-19 patients dependent on ventilators, 11 children are treated in Niswonger

The system also worries about those whose immune systems are already compromised.

“We don’t want COVID-19 to rip through the bodies of these children with cancer,” said Dr. emberesh. “I don’t want them gasping for breath or managing long-hauler symptoms on top of their adverse effects of chemotherapy.”

dr. Myesa Emberesh, pediatric oncologist/hematologist at St. Jude Tri-Cities Affiliate Clinic is concerned about @NiswongerCHosp’s capacity. She is concerned about the patients she cares for and how COVID may affect them.

— Anslee Daniel WJHL (@Anslee_WJHL) September 1, 2021

Those kids are already struggling during a typical cold and flu season.

“We know how hard it is to keep those kids from even catching a cold, and we also know that one of those illnesses is only amplified when your natural immune system is weakened and unable to fight it,” says Niswonger CEO Lisa Carter.

Ballad continues to ask the public to wear masks and get the vaccine.

“These kids didn’t ask to be sick. The children whose lives are threatened with COVID often have no choice to get vaccinated. That’s why they need us,” said Kate Strickland, the Clinical Manager at the St. Jude Tri-Cities Affiliate Clinic.

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During the briefing, Strickland read a letter from the McClelland family, whose son is particularly at risk.

Gus McClelland was diagnosed with leukemia in December 2016 and was then treated for three years at St. Jude in the Tri-Cities.

“When Gus was in treatment we used to mask a lot, and by doing that we all kept him from catching a lot of cruds, so we masked. You do these things without a doubt when a life depends on them,” Strickland read.

Gus McClelland

“Our middle child contracted COVID-19 in his first week of school. He was one of two masks in a class of 21 in a school of thousands now closing corridors left and right,” the letter continued. “Making is a two-way street. It is most effective when everyone is on board. We went into panic mode in our house when COVID-19 arrived. We followed strict protocols and made sure it didn’t spread. Our unfortunately learned skills as a cancer family proved helpful, but there was still frustration and anger.”

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On the first day of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, the McClellands made a plea to try to protect the most vulnerable.

“If you walked through the halls of St. Jude, you would quickly see that masks are a lifeline,” the letter said. “They let kids thrive and be involved. They allow you to be connected to the outside world where things just don’t feel safe.”

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