Kawasaki Disease

There has been renewed interest in Kawasaki Disease (also sometimes called Kawasaki Syndrome) since the passing away of Jett Travolta, the 16-year old son of John Travolta and Kelly Preston early in 2009. If reports are accurate, Jett had a seizure in the bathroom and hit his head. As added information, it has been mentioned that Jett had Kawasaki Disease when he was two years old.

These past few days, people have been talking to me about Jett Travolta and how they remembered my daughter Ali, who herself had Kawasaki Disease, also when she was two years old. She has been cleared by her Kawasaki doctor and is a healthy six year old now.

I don't have any detail regarding Jett Travolta and his Kawasaki Disease history and it really is not clear whether the seizure that he experienced had anything to do with his being a Kawasaki patient at one point. I do remember our Kawasaki doctor saying years ago though that there are cases of healthy teenage boys who just collapse out of the blue and pass away. She then added that most likely, the boys may have had Kawasaki when they were young kids but it was undetected or untreated. Kawasaki Disease can affect the heart's vessels and I have heard of cases locally in the Philippines when after a bout with Kawasaki, the heart's vessels have been so affected that the patient becomes physically weak and is unable to go to school. There are likewise cases wherein Kawasaki patients grow to full adulthood and lead active, healthy lives. Thus, the effect of the disease can vary from case to case.

It is good though that Kawasaki Disease is starting to generate some amount of interest in local media. Early and proper detection is actually very important. Equally significant is being able to give IVIG to prevent or minimize damage to the coronary vessels. IVIG, however, costs a lot of money and it is still my hope that eventually, indigent patients who may suffer from Kawasaki will get the financial support necessary for them to be able to receive IVIG treatment.

A local TV station here in the Philippines was running a story on Kawasaki Disease last Friday. A representative got in touch with me to ask if I knew of any patient who had Kawasaki Disease at the moment. I did not know of any so I just referred them to my Kawasaki doctor. I did tell the person I talked to that although I am all for increasing awareness about the disease so the public will know what to watch out for, it may be difficult for a parent to have his or her child featured as part of the show. A parent with a child undergoing Kawasaki is already subject to a lot of stress. They don't need the added stress of appearing on television or media to answer questions or to give information. Well, I guess there is away of finding the right balance between giving information and respecting and being sensitive to the privacy of a patient and his/her family. I did not get to catch the show but I hope the segment accomplished its objective of informing more people about the disease.

How do you know if it is Kawasaki Disease? You don't. Even the doctors take some time to say that it is. But as with all diseases, trust your instinct as a parent. If you are uneasy, consult your doctor. It is better to be safe than sorry.

May we all stay healthy in 2009.

[By Angelica Viloria | Sunday, January 11, 2009]

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