Four-Year-Old Kidney Patient’s Clash with COVID

Within 14 months, 4-year-old Brooke Fritz was not only diagnosed with Nephrotic Syndrome, but also tested positive for COVID-19. The past year or so has proven to be a rollercoaster for the Fritz family, including a lot of change brought by the pandemic. While Brooke has fully recovered from the virus, it still takes a mental and emotional toll on her mother, Kristina. Learn more about Brooke’s battle with rare kidney disease and COVID-19, and how their family is staying strong through this difficult time. The questions below are answered by Kristina Fritz.

What was it like during the initial shut down? What went through your head?

In the very beginning of the shutdown, my husband and I were freaking out. Brooke had just got out of the hospital in January 2020 from a relapse triggered by an ear infection. After discharge, we were home roughly two weeks before she became ill with the flu. I remember thinking, ‘Boy, how can we escape COVID-19?’

We already had almost everything to monitor vitals for our family, except for a pulse oximeter. I ordered that and continued to stress about this unknown virus. It took a toll on all of us. I stressed about having to quit my job and stay home with the kids, which eventually I did have to do. I know it’s no one’s fault, but I’m left feeling angry about that.

What changes did you and your family make regarding the pandemic?

We live in a unique part of California that’s not densely populated. My husband had to continue to work, and at that time I was employed part-time. Brooke was still going to pre-school, but after my oldest daughter’s school closed, she was just hanging out at a friend’s house when I worked. We did limit our circle to just that. Pre-school seemed relatively safe, they limited the number of kids attending and they were all mostly outside. It felt very low risk and safe for her to attend. Also, the COVID-related cases were still very low in our county. 

Unfortunately, Brooke caught the COVID-19 virus. Can you tell us more about that and how it affected her? 

In the beginning of July, we were notified of a possible exposure to COVID-19 for Brooke. After a few days of talking back and forth with her nephrologist, we decided to go ahead and test both my kids for the virus. To our dismay, 48 hours later we got the call that both my children tested positive for COVID-19. My husband became very ill as well with COVID-19. Somehow, I managed to stay COVID-free. I cried and cried. 

The day before we were informed about Brooke’s exposure to the virus, her morning urine dip readings were showing plus 1. I thought, ‘Hmm, what is going on? Is she getting sick?’ Fast forward three days and she was off the charts with her urine dips and she was starting to swell. Luckily, her nephrologist had started her on steroids the day before (which was just two days into a relapse).

During these early days, Brooke only complained about a sore throat for one day. That was it. She had zero difficulty breathing. In fact, you would not know she had COVID other than her positive test and the fact she was relapsing. Her relapse lasted eight long days. On day eight she was swelling so badly I thought she was going to have to go in-patient for some albumen infusions to get her swelling down. We live almost four hours away from our nephrologist, so that night I tucked her into bed with the bags packed in the car ready to take her in first thing in the morning. Morning came, and, to my surprise, she was showing signs of heading towards remission. I was SO excited!

After she went into remission just a week and a half later, Brooke had some weird symptoms that our doctor thought was probably COVID-related. She would be up all hours of the night with diarrhea, she would complain that she couldn’t breathe, she did nothing but sleep or lay on a couch all day. This lasted a good two months. It really had me worried, but her vitals were good, so we stayed home and rested.

When Brooke tested positive for COVID, her nephrologist gave her go ahead to get Rituxamab infusions in the hopes to get longer remission days and cutdown the time on steroids. However, this took an additional 2 months to fully recover from. She had to test negative for COVID, which took over 21 days. And because of the pandemic, Brooke had to get caught up on some vaccines and also get the flu shot– this delayed her treatment another two weeks. I was so worried that Brooke would catch a cold and start to relapse and delay her treatment of Rituxamab (that she needed very badly) further.

How has NephCure helped you through this time?

NephCure has helped us, as a family, not feel alone in our journey. They have reached out to include our family in online resources that might interest us. And they invited us to attend a conference that I was looking forward to, but unfortunately was cancelled due to COVID-19. 

If you would like to support people like Brooke and her family, please consider helping NephCure further its mission by donating here.

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