Andre Guest, a laid-back sophomore at Lawrence North High School, loved YouTube and knew all about video games.

(Kaiser Health News) –– It started as a normal day. Dawn Guest, 54, got up and went to her job as a nurse around 5 a.m. She heard her 16-year-old son Andre move in his room, but he was always an early riser, even when his school closed for covid-19. Later that day she would receive a call from her husband, in which he told her that something was wrong with her son.

That phone conversation would be the beginning of a 12-day journey that would end in tragedy,

“I can’t explain how a perfectly healthy 16-year-old can be making his own peanut butter sandwich on Wednesday night, getting his own tea out of the fridge and going to bed like any other teenager in the state or country. … And in 24 hours, spend fighting for your life, ”said Dawn.

The Guest family poses for a family photo. In the first row from left to right are Ajene Guest and Abby Guest. Dawn Guest, Andre Guest, Jessica Plunkitt, Zachary Guest, Elizabeth Guest, Laura Guest, Johnny Guest appear in the second row from the left. (Credit: Courtesy of Amber Springer / Wildflower Photography)

Andre, a laid-back sophomore at Lawrence North High School, loved YouTube and knew everything about video games: For his birthday in April, he ordered a game that would be released until December, and his parents planned to get it when it became available. He also loved photography and teasing his brothers. He also excelled in basketball and bowling.

Andre was a premature baby born at 25 weeks: he and his twin Abby spent months in the hospital before being brought home and then adopted by Dawn and her husband, Johnny. Although Andre was diagnosed with moderate autism, his parents were fierce advocates and he grew up with a positive attitude and a smile on his face. “It always flew by,” Dawn said.

Because Dawn is a nurse in the nursing home of a continuing care community, the family took more precautions than normal when the coronavirus began to spread throughout the United States. After each shift, she took off her shoes at the door – where Johnny sanitized them – and headed upstairs to shower. The family cleaned surfaces with disinfecting wipes, wore face masks when they had to leave the house, and practiced social distancing as much as possible.

In fact, Andre was the only member of the family who did not leave the house. But the virus has proven to be a cunning enemy and circulated in some communities before public health officials realized it was there. He reached vulnerable people like Andre Guest despite all the recommended care.

After Dawn went out to work that morning, Andre – usually self-sufficient – asked his father for help with a drink. Strange. At 1:30 p.m., when Johnny went to check on Andre, the teenager said he was tired but, Johnny recalled, “he was dragging his words out a lot. He could still understand me and answer me. ” A short time later, when Andre fell in the bathroom, Johnny called his wife.

By the time Dawn arrived home, Andre had lost the ability to grab objects, was having trouble standing, had his eyes rolled, was unable to support his body weight, and seemed confused. She called an ambulance, which took Andre to the nearest emergency room, from where he was then transferred to Riley Hospital for Children.

Although Andre did not have pre-existing medical conditions, the first thing the doctors discovered was that he had developed type 1 diabetes: his blood sugar level was dangerous as he had 1,500 milligrams per deciliter, more than 10 times normal. Type 1 diabetes is often first identified in the midst of an infection.

Because she had a fever and cough, in addition to breathing hard, she was tested for covid-19. Negative. But doctors were having trouble controlling the teen’s blood sugar, which is usually easy with an insulin infusion in a first episode of diabetes. At the same time, his temperature continued to rise and his breathing deteriorated even with the increase in oxygen supplementation. A second coronavirus test was positive and he was transferred to a covid-19 unit.

Johnny and Andre’s two sisters had the test and they were also positive, although they only had a slight fever and fatigue. Dawn, who was in the hospital with Andre, decided not to take the test because, according to Riley’s policy, if her result was positive, she would not be allowed to return to the hospital until her result was negative twice.

A few days later, Andre already had an artificial respirator, and the doctors – trying to understand and treat his rapidly changing disease – even turned him upside down, placing him on his stomach to improve lung capacity.

Andre’s doctors tried to put him face down on his stomach to improve his lung capacity. (Credit: Courtesy of the Guest family)

During his 12 days in the hospital, Andre experienced problems with his brain, heart, lungs, kidneys, and more. “Everyone that they would fight to try to correct, the coronavirus would find something else to attack,” Johnny said. Although the staff had obtained the experimental medication remdesivir for Andre, his kidney and liver function was too weak to administer safely. Many of Andre’s symptoms were similar to what has since been called multi-system inflammatory syndrome in children, a rare but extremely serious immune reaction associated with covid-19 that was not detailed until mid-May. Andre was never diagnosed with the syndrome.

Still, his mother thought he would survive. He was receiving excellent care, and his blood sugar was finally at normal levels, suggesting that the worst of the infection had already passed. He was young and had always been resilient.

The inflammatory syndrome that attacks children 1:18

On the morning of April 27, that hope quickly evaporated. Her blood sugar skyrocketed. Her arterial line began to clot, suggesting clotting problems that have been a hallmark of the disease. He suffered cardiac arrest and, despite chest compressions, succumbed.

Andre is among the small number of children who died from covid-19 and is the first victim Indiana has recorded under the age of 18.

“They were wonderful there,” said Dawn. “Every nurse and every doctor. I can not complain. We just didn’t get the results we wanted, “he added.

The Northeast Marion County Special Olympics removed the number from Andre’s basketball jersey, the number 54, and sent it to his family. (Credit: Courtesy of the Guest family)

Despite the confinement restrictions, Andre’s death resulted in a great deal of community support. Letters and cards came from teachers remembering their favorite encounters with the teenager.

More than 70 cars passed by the guest house to express their condolences at a tribute organized by Lawrence Township, where Andre attended the school.

The Northeast Marion County Special Olympics removed the Andre team jersey, number 54, and sent it to the family home.

With this virus, “you are taking care of your community, as much as you are taking care of yourself. You have no idea if you are a carrier or if you have touched something that has it, “said Dawn.

Kaiser Health News (KHN) is a non-profit news service that covers health problems. It is an editorially independent program of the Kaiser Family Foundation that is not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.