ALEXANDRIA, Minn. — The power of prayer and a doctor who stuck to her guns are two things Caleb Laurent’s parents are thankful for. Without either, Greg and Angie Laurent feel their 16-year-old son wouldn’t be here today.
The Alexandria, Minn., couple, called Dr. Misty Folkestad, a pediatrician at Sanford Health Broadway Clinic in Alexandria, the angel who saved their son’s life.
Caleb, a sophomore at Alexandria Area High School, ended up with MIS-C, a multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children. It is a rare condition where different body parts can become inflamed, including the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, skin, eyes or gastrointestinal organs.
Even though the cause is unknown, children who have been diagnosed with MIS-C had the virus that causes COVID-19 or had been around someone with COVID-19, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Angie Laurent tested positive for COVID-19 last November. Caleb and his dad both had symptoms of COVID-19, but never ended up being tested. For Caleb, the symptoms were very mild and didn’t really slow him down, his parents said.
“It was pretty minor and we didn’t think much of it,” Greg said.
But all that changed shortly before Christmas.
Tests were inclusive
On Friday, Dec. 18, Caleb was complaining of a stomach ache and was running a small fever. He wasn’t feeling too bad as he was still making plans for his 16th birthday on the 23rd. Because he still wasn’t feeling the best, he laid low and rested most of Saturday.
By Sunday, however, things changed dramatically and his temperature kept spiking up. It would go down with medicine, but would shoot right back up, his parents explained. When Monday morning came, Caleb’s temperature hit 105.1 so his mom made a doctor’s appointment for that afternoon.
Because of where Caleb’s pain was, in his stomach, and because of the fever, it was thought that it could be his appendix. It wasn’t his appendix either. After several tests, strep was also ruled out as was COVID-19 and several other things.
All the tests were inclusive, and Caleb was admitted to the hospital. A CT scan did show there was some inflammation, but a diagnosis was still not determined. He had to be put on ice and cold-wash clothes were used to try to keep his fever down. Greg said it spiked as high as 105.6.
By Tuesday night, Caleb’s health became worse and he started having chest pain. And pneumonia was starting to settle in his chest.
“By Wednesday morning, he was declining rapidly,” Greg said.
Folkestad, who just happened to recently review some articles on MIS-C, was on-call and checked in on Caleb Wednesday morning, Dec. 23.
She had more lab work ordered on Caleb and the results were not surprising to her.
“They all came back consistent with MIS-C,” Folkestad said. “I knew we had to act fast as he was getting worse. I was very worried he was going to die.”
Angie and Greg said that when Folkestad came in and went over their son’s information, she told them he checked every single box for a diagnosis of MIS-C. They later found out that in Minnesota there have been 51 children treated for MIS-C.
Caleb was the 52nd patient treated for this rare complication of COVID-19.
Caleb’s parents said Folkestad made the difference between their son living and dying. They said he was going downhill so fast, but when she figured out what he had, she stuck to her guns and wanted him sent down to Children’s Hospital in Minneapolis, which has a pediatric intensive care unit where he would get the best treatment.
While in the parking lot at Alomere Health, Greg said he got a call from the family's pastor at Alexandria Covenant Church.
“That call came at the right time,” said Greg. “A prayer chain was started and so many people started praying.”
Earlier, Angie had texted a friend, “We need prayers right now.” She later found out it was her friend who had contacted their pastor, who had reached out to Greg to get the prayer chain started.
Mother Nature was not willing to cooperate for the Laurent family as wind, snow and ice wreaked havoc on plans to transport Caleb down to the Twin Cities hospital.
Folkestad was frantically making phone calls for the family. It was too windy for Caleb to be taken by helicopter and there were white-out conditions on the Interstate so an ambulance ride all the way down to the Cities was not going to happen either.
It was time for Plan B. Folkestad contacted the St. Cloud Hospital, getting approval for Caleb to be transported there. She also found an ambulance driver willing to make the trek to St. Cloud. It was decided that Caleb would go to the St. Cloud Hospital on that Wednesday, Dec. 23, his 16th birthday.
Once he made it to St. Cloud, Caleb had a breathing tube put in immediately, his parents said. He was starting to have heart failure because his heart was trying to work so hard and it was beating too fast. Also, his oxygen level was so low that he was getting several liters of oxygen per hour.
They said one of the doctors at the St. Cloud hospital told them that when he looked into Caleb’s eyes, he knew it would have been an hour or two and Caleb wouldn’t have made it had he not been transferred to St. Cloud.
After spending only one night in St. Cloud, Caleb did end up being transferred to Children’s Hospital in Minneapolis on Christmas Eve morning.
Caleb spent several days in the Minneapolis hospital. He was finally taken off the ventilator on Dec. 30, which was good, yet stressful because the family didn’t know if Caleb would breathe on his own.
“As disturbing as it was to see him on it, when he went off of it, it was bittersweet,” said Angie.
But Caleb did great. After receiving heavy does of steroids, as well as other medicines, Caleb was on the mend and would make a full recovery. He was discharged from the hospital on Jan. 4, and within a short period of time, the family — which includes 10-year-old daughter, Emma — was able to celebrate Caleb’s birthday as well as Christmas.
Throughout his ordeal, Angie and Greg said Caleb was amazing and that he seemed to be calm and peaceful, which they attributed to all the prayers he received.
Folkestad called Caleb brave and said he was very calm throughout the time she was able to visit with him and treat him. She said she’s been in awe of his recovery.
When the family made it back to Alexandria, one of their priorities was to go and visit Folkestad. They wanted to thank her and let her know she played a major part of saving Caleb’s life. The day they visited her happened to be her birthday.
“To see him alive was the best birthday present ever,” she said.
Although Caleb is taking things one day at a time, he will make a full recovery. He is back in school and looking forward to getting back to wrestling and seeing his teammates, who Angie said made an impact on Caleb with all the well wishes they sent.
Angie and Greg said that although everything turned out well and Caleb is alive, looking back, they could have reacted quicker. They advised parents to keep an eye on their children if they have had COVID-19 or been around people who have had it, even if the symptoms are mild. They said to watch for stomach issues, fever and/or a cough, which usually show up a couple of weeks to a month afterward. And they said to get into the doctor immediately as they don’t want any other parents to go through what their child went through.
As for Caleb, he said he’s happy to be home and glad to be back in school.
“Everyone has been saying hi and that they are happy I am OK. Everyone has been so nice,” Caleb said.
A family member has set up a GoFundMe page to help pay for medical expenses. The page also details the family’s journey and has updates on how Caleb is doing. He will have regular checkups with both his own pediatrician and his doctors at the Children’s Hospital for the next year.