Enterovirus D68, a non-polio enterovirus that causes mild to severe respiratory illness and can be spread through coughs, sneezes, or touch, has become a contagious problem in the United States. As a result, physicians are paying special attention to patients who already suffer from respiratory diseases or severe disease, such as cystic fibrosis, who can be particularly impaired by the enterovirus. As reported first on McAlester News-Capital in an article entitled “Just Like Everyone Else” by staff writer Parker Perry, 7 year-old Kaylee Lance, a CF patient, along with her parents, have remained on alert about helping Kaylee avoid the infection. However, the girl, who wants nothing more than to be like other children, was surprised by her school colleagues’ reaction.
Even though the enterovirus was identified by physicians in 1962, its recent spread has raised new concerns, particularly due to new virus strains that exist, as recently explained by Robert Welliver, the chief of pediatric infectious diseases at the Oklahoma University College of Medicine. In particular, the rise of Enterovirus D68 has been particularly worrying in Oklahoma, where Kaylee lives with her family.
“Type 68 (enterovirus) has been in the state at low numbers, but this year it has become a nationwide problem for unknown reasons,” Welliver said in a recent interview, explaining that despite the wheezing that the virus causes, there haven’t been any deaths reported. “People with cystic fibrosis have breathing problems, and it is likely to cause them to have a flare up,” Welliver said in the McAlester News-Capital article. “It might be enough to cause them to have a hospital stay.”
Kaylee Lance, who attends the first grade at the Edmond Doyle Elementary School in McAlester, was given the option to leave school or wear a mask every day, as the doctors warned her family about the threat. “Kaylee’s big thing is that she does not want to feel different,” Kaylee’s mother, Devon Lance, said. “And with her having a feeding tube and stuff and being questioned by kids, which kids don’t understand, she already feels different as it is. So having to send her to school with a mask all day long is going to make her standout even more. She was devastated when I told her she had to wear a mask. She didn’t even want to come anymore.”
In order to ease the girl’s burden, the school’s principal, Kathy Hunt, explained to the other children the reason for the mask in advance, and that she was normal like the other children. But when the girl went to school wearing the mask, her classmates not only understood the situation, but they also wanted to help her feel better. A volunteer at the school procured masks for all the children and school staff, who were happy to wear them throughout the school day and join the action in doing everything possible so that Kaylee doesn’t contract Enterovirus D68.
“I came up (to Edmond Doyle) and I told (Kaylee’s principal) Kathy Hunt, about enterovirus and explaining she (Kaylee) has to wear the mask and keep it on,” Devon Lance said. “That was at 8 a.m., I came back up at 11 to get Kaylee for an eye doctor appointment and all these kids and teachers are wearing masks just to make her not feel any different.”
The girl was so happy to feel just like the other children that when she told her mother, “I don’t feel any different, I am just like everybody else,” Devon Lance couldn’t help to cry. “She has never said that. She has always felt different, and she finally felt the same,” she told McAlester News-Capital.
Kaylee was diagnosed with CF when she was born, but the last six months of her life have been particularly hard, as she was hospitalized between March and May because her doctors feared she had bacteria in her lungs. In addition, the antibiotics she was taking were damaging her kidneys.”It was very hard for her. She got to the point where got really depressed. She couldn’t leave the room,” Devon Lance told. “She would just sit and stare out the window. She spent her days staring out the window. She got to the point where she didn’t think she was going to go home.”
However, the girl was able to recover and leave the hospital. Now she needs to take 40 to 50 pills per day, as well as breathing treatments every morning, but she goes to school everyday and became an inspiration there as well, due to her willingness. Despite the “sick-ic fibrosis,” as the family calls it, the school’s support will continue. “Nobody teases me about it,” Kaylee said. “I feel like everybody else.”