COLUMBIA, Mo. – A family and a team of doctors at University of Missouri Health Care are calling the recovery of a 3-year-old boy the best Christmas present ever after the boy had COVID-19, which caused a stroke.

“We thought we were going to lose him for sure,” said Tim Parris, father of Colt Parris. “I don’t care how tough you are; you will cry. You can’t help it when it’s your 3-year-old laying there.”

It’s something no parent ever wants to go through.

“His behavior was quite different and the pain that your child is in, I can’t even put into words,” said Sara Parris, Colt’s mother. “You couldn’t even touch him and not know that it wasn’t hurting him.”

For more than a week, Tim and Sara have been inside MU Women’s and Children’s Hospital in Columbia as their 3-year-old son lies in a hospital bed.

“Just trying to explain to him why I’m holding him down,” Tim said. “Nurses are trying to stick needles in his feet. The pain that he has. You couldn’t touch him for several days because he was so swollen, and his body just hurt everywhere.”

Last week, Colt stopped eating and drinking. His mom took him to a local clinic near their hometown of Salisbury, Missouri, where he tested negative for COVID. The clinic recommended the family go to the hospital.

“They did get a test back by the time we were admitted and that’s when we got the positive antibody to know that it was COVID,” Sara said.

Hours later, Sara noticed something different about her son.

“I noticed Wednesday his speech was a little off, but I honestly thought he’s in so much pain and he’s so tired,” Sara said.

Then she started to notice he lost the ability to move his right arm and leg when she tried to hand him his stuffed animal.

“So, I went to hand him his Boo and I noticed that he didn’t use his dominate arm to grab it,” Sara said. “He reached over to grab his bunny and then again, I knew something else wasn’t right.”

After running test, doctors told the family Colt had a blockage in his brain.

“The result came back and I looked at it and it was a clear stroke,” said MU Health Care Pediatric Neurologist Dr. Paul Carney, who diagnosed the little boy. “So, there was a lack of blood supply to the left side of the brain.”

Carney said he’s been practicing for 20 years and has never seen anything like this.

“What was different here was a child and as I mention, there’s really no other case like this,” Carney said. “If this had been anybody over the age of 40 or 60, they would have probably had a very different outcome.”

Later Wednesday night, MU Healthcare Neurologist Dr. Camilo Gomez used a treatment called a thrombectomy to remove the colt from Colt’s brain.

“The COVID diagnosis is important because we think the reason why this patient with COVID, including the child, have strokes and a variety of other problems is that they have propensity to form clots,” Gomez said.

Once the procedure was over, Sara said she immediately noticed a difference in her son.

“He came out of the sedation period and his speech was there, his words were there,” Sara said. “It wasn’t clear, but it was more than Wednesday morning.

Carney said through his research, he’s found one other case like Colt’s, but the child didn’t survive.

“I would say that if you notice your child has COVID and having problems walking or talking, don’t just chalk it up, ‘oh they just have a fever,'” Carney said. “It could be a nervous system problem.”

Colt’s parents hope their story will make other aware of COVID-19.

“Masks and stuff like that, people need to wear them,” Tim said. “It’s important. If you don’t’ want your children going through this, people need to be more aware.”

Carney wants people to know this can happen to anyone.

“When children do get it, do get COVID, it seems like they have more system or systemic problems involving their heart, in particular, which can be life long,” Carney said. “It can scar the heart.”

Now the goofy, silly and energetic three-year-old boy is on the road to recovery.

“Like you said, we already had our Christmas,” Sara said. “It’s sitting on the bed there in the room. I don’t think we could have asked fr anything more than that.”

Sara and Tim both said they don’t know where Colt contracted the virus. Earlier this year, the Parris’ started homeschooling their children to avoid any outside contact.

“In our situation, we minimized public interaction to our highest extent,” Sara said. “We don’t go out and so, in our head, it can’t be COVID because we’re not around anyone.”

Doctors say Colt is going to make a full recovery with the hopes of him going home to his three older siblings next week. He will be in rehab for his ability to move his right leg, arm, and for his speech.

The Parris said they can’t thank the team at MU Women’s and Children’s hospital enough. Their son might not be alive today without them.

“That team is the most amazing, phenomenal people,” Sara said.

Carney said Colt is not at risk for any more strokes because of this and he will be on a blood thinner or aspirin for the next six months.