Alexandria teen on road to recovery after bout with life-threatening COVID-related illness

Caleb Laurent is nothing if not determined. Not even a mysterious COVID-related illness is keeping him down as he recovers at Children’s Minnesota Hospital.

"I’ve got to show them I’m feeling good, man, feeling fine,” he says in a cell phone clip recorded by his father. “I want to say hi to all my friends at home, everybody. I want to thank everybody who’s praying for me.”

The Alexandria 16-year-old is now walking the hallways of the hospital. His lungs are clear and his fever is gone after a harrowing two weeks.

“There was a lot of prayers, and there was a lot of support,” Caleb’s cousin, Carly Laurent, said. “A lot of people praying for him to get better."

Two weeks ago, Caleb, a sophomore at Alexandria High School, started feeling ill. What began as a stomachache and a low-grade fever spiked to 105 degrees.

"They referred him to the emergency room, they thought he had appendicitis,” recalls Caleb’s father, Greg Laurent. “His chest started to hurt and he started to have trouble breathing.”

Minute by minute, his condition got worse.

"There was just inflammation everywhere,” Carly Laurent remembers. “His heart was working properly, his lungs weren’t working properly. And the doctors said if they waited even an hour or more to get that breathing tube in, he would not have been with us."

On Dec. 22, the night before his 16th birthday, Caleb was rushed to the emergency room.

By the next day, doctors at St. Cloud Hospital diagnosed a mysterious ailment that was forcing many of his vital organs to shut down.

“One of the doctors there kind of thought he might have what they called MIS-C,” Greg Laurent said. “You come that close to losing your kid, it gives you a scare, no doubt about it.”

MIS-C is short for multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children, a post-COVID illness where the body’s organs become inflamed in children and teenagers.

Public records show that MIS-C is extremely rare. The Minnesota Department of Health says there have been 52 cases in the state since the pandemic began — none of them fatal.

“We weren’t even aware this was a thing that could happen,” said Caleb’s mother, Angie Laurent.

Newborn baby among the Minnesota children recently hospitalized with COVID-19

All of this was happening as a pre-Christmas blizzard hit Minnesota, making emergency transport from St. Cloud to the metro difficult.

“He got the help he needed, right then and there,” Greg Laurent said. “The doctor said he didn’t think he would necessarily make it down to the metro, the roads being so bad. That delay may have saved his life. That’s one prayer I’m glad wasn’t answered.”

Caleb and his family — his mother, father and 10-year-old sister, Emma — all came down with COVID-19 in November. But the family says the symptoms were mild.

“For Caleb and I, we barely noticed we had it,” Greg Laurent said. “Our daughter, it didn’t affect her at all.”

“It’s so unpredictable,” adds Angie Laurent. “(Caleb) had hardly any symptoms, didn’t slow him down in the COVID part of it. And I had never heard of the MIS-C part of it.”

On Christmas Eve, with the weather improved, Caleb was airlifted to Children’s Minnesota Hospital in Minneapolis. He was intubated for a solid week, heavily sedated and given steroids for inflammation.

“My faith is about the only thing that did help,” Angie Laurent said. “Along with everybody else’s prayers and family surrounding us.”

In another in-hospital clip, Greg gently asked Caleb about his condition.

“Kind of a tough way to have a 16th birthday, huh?”

“Yeah,” the teen answered quietly.

But in recent days, Caleb’s health has improved dramatically. He’s off most of his meds, and the condition of his heart and kidneys is getting better.

“Hello, I want to thank my wrestling team, the notes for praying for me,” Caleb tells his dad. “For thinking of me and sending me the wonderful nice messages to get better.”

Caleb’s family says he could go home as early as Monday. They say they’re thankful for the doctors, their community and their faith.

“He’s kind of amazed by it too. He’s like, ‘I feel God probably has a purpose for me because he could have let me die,’” Angie said. “And so just make every day count, and appreciate every day.”

A GoFundMe page has been set up to help the family pay off $30,000 in medical expenses.