CLEVELAND — Doctors at Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital are working on a new project to get better help for kids with "long haul" COVID-19.
The hospital system plans to open a new clinic just for pediatric patients. The clinic would be the first in the country.
"We typically define long haul as 12 weeks or longer," said Dr. Amy Edwards, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at the hospital.
Right now, she's treating four pediatric patients with long-haul COVID, including 16-year-old Drew Coffey.
The Columbus high school student plays tenor drums in the marching band and has a job at the local grocery store. Earlier this year, he was diagnosed with COVID-19.
"I don't know how I got it," he said. "It's either between going to school or going to work."
Five months later, his symptoms of lightheadedness, acid reflux and anxiety persist.
"Right now, I can't really push myself or else I start getting lightheadedness and stuff," he said. "But it's a very boring day, I can tell you that. It's not as active ... It's been hard, I have to have a really regimented diet regimen schedule and I take a lot of vitamins."
Edwards said what Coffey is suffering from is typical for pediatric long-haul patients.
"I mean, almost textbook," she said. "His course was very typical. He recovered from COVID. And I think it was about a week or so later things just started to go downhill.
Right now, she's treating four patients like Coffey.
"They're not 100% sure of how long this is going to take to for me to get healed," Coffey said. "Could be months, could be weeks."
The new clinic is expected to open in August, and for Dr. Edwards, it can't come fast enough.
"I suspect there's a lot more kids out there with long haul than we realize, and they're just sitting at home and the parents are just dealing with it," she said.
It's estimated that 10% of adults who have had COVID are considered long haul but, "we have absolutely no idea if the numbers are anything like that in kids. Ten percent seems like a huge amount," Edwards said. "My hope is that it's much lower, like more in the range of one to two percent, but we have no idea."
She hopes when the clinic opens, more parents will bring their children to get treatments, like those that are helping Coffey.
"Even a couple of days within the doctors helping me — I felt just a lot better," he said.