At 12, She’s a Covid ‘Long Hauler’


Chris recently consulted with Dr. Peter Rowe, a professor of pediatrics at Johns Hopkins who specializes in chronic and debilitating conditions like myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome, which is often triggered by a viral illness and has no approved drug treatments. Dr. Rowe determined that Chris has the heart-racing condition known as postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome, or POTS, which can occur after viral infections and limits the ability to carry out day-to-day activities.

“He had been capable of training 60 and 70 miles a week as a runner,” said Dr. Rowe, adding that some of the symptoms and the “really severe impairment” that Chris and many other long-haulers suffer from are characteristic of ME/CFS.

Under Dr. Rowe’s direction, Chris has been trying different medications in an effort to alleviate the symptoms.

In Baltimore, the Kennedy Krieger Institute, a treatment facility for children with neurological and other chronic disabilities, is offering multidisciplinary services for those under 21 who continue to experience challenges after Covid-19. So far the institute has seen only one patient, said Dr. Melissa Trovato, the institute’s interim medical director of rehabilitation.

With infections on the rise, Dr. Trovato said she thought it was “quite possible” the clinic will see more patients with persistent symptoms in the coming months. Because of the perception that Covid-19 is rare in kids, she said, parents might not associate a mild illness and subsequent effects, like a loss of energy, with the coronavirus.

“It might take more time for family to pick up on it,” she said. “From a pediatric perspective there probably is more that we’re going to find out, as more children” with “prolonged symptoms come forward and get seen.”

Ziah McKinney-Taylor, a dancer and birth doula in Atlanta, never doubted that her 14-year-old daughter, Ava, was suffering from the lingering effects of Covid-19, even though she tested negative for both the virus and antibodies. Before Ava got sick in March, said Ms. McKinney-Taylor, she was a “super-energetic kid” who took dancing and aikido lessons five days a week. That has changed. “She has never really gotten her energy back, she is always sleeping and napping,” she said.

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