Some children suffer from persistent physical, mental, and neurological
Symptoms months after recovering from COVID-19. Now Children’s National Hospital in Washington, DC, is investigating the phenomenon and trying to provide relief to young people.
“I’m a pretty healthy kid, right. I’m 17 years old, but when I peaked with COVID I was 16,” said Messiah Rodriguez.
Messiah is the youngest of four children and a typical teenager who excelled in sports and science.
Doctors are urging everyone over the age of 12 to get the COVID-19 vaccine to protect our most vulnerable population, including children under 12 who are not yet eligible for the vaccine. News4’s Doreen Gentzler reports the urgent news comes as Children’s National Hospital says it has seen a significant increase in COVID-19 patients lately.
His mother says everyone in her family contracted COVID-19 around Thanksgiving and made a quick recovery.
But 10 months later, the Messiah is still struggling to feel like himself.
“My chest hurt a lot more. I can hardly pay attention,” Messiah told News4 on a video call. “My hair started falling out too.”
Sometimes the star athlete’s mother says he can’t get up from the couch. He is crippled with pain and tiredness.
“I can see the pain in his face or I can see him holding his side or his back or when he can’t get up,” said his mother, Kimmie Ezeike.
She says it’s not just his physical health. The persistent symptoms have also affected the Messiah’s mental health.
“He sees a therapist weekly for depression and anxiety,” she said. “We’ve been to the doctor pretty much, if not every week, then every two weeks since Thanksgiving.”
Studies suggest that up to 15 percent of young people infected with the coronavirus could end up with “long-term COVID,” which includes a range of physical, mental, and neurological symptoms.
Nobody knows why some people are affected or how long the symptoms can last.
Messiah hopes the answer will be found at Children’s National Hospital, where he will be treated and see a team of specialists from the hospital’s new post-COVID program.
“A lot of these kids are just very productive at first – athletes, star scholars – unable to do what they did before and are looking for a way to get back to their baseline, back to their normal state,” said Dr. Alexandra Yonts, who heads the program.
Yonts says some early trends emerged.
“Fatigue is by far the most common symptom reported by individuals.
Children have also reported many problems with sleep, difficulty concentrating, or the brain fog you may be referring to, “Yonts said.
“We have a couple of children who have been having very persistent breathlessness …
some who had joint pain and quite a few who still had loss of taste and smell even 10 months after their first COVID infection, “she said.
Dr. Yonts says most of the patients are older teenagers. The median age is 16 years old, but they examined children from 3 years old.
“And the really surprising thing we saw in adults too,
Many of them had very mild COVID infection initially and may not even have realized they were sick until they test positive for some other reason.
As for the Messiah, he spent the summer giving his mind and body a break, taking it easy while he goes back to school for his senior year of Annapolis High School and shared his story to others from the risk to warn.
“No matter how healthy you are, COVID can hit you and make you really sick.
So I think other people need to hear my story. I also had COVID and you could get it too if you are not sure, “said Messiah.
Children’s National Hospital is working with the NIH to study the long-term effects of the coronavirus and enroll up to 2,000 children and young adults as part of the research.
You can find more information on how to participate here.