Local hospital to open first clinic for COVID-19 ‘long haul’ pediatric patients

CLEVELAND — Doctors from Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital are working on a new project to provide better help for children with “long distance” 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 usually define long distances as 12 weeks or longer,” says Dr. Amy Edwards, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at the hospital.

She is currently treating four pediatric patients with long-term COVID, including 16-year-old Drew Coffey.

The high school student from Columbus plays tenor drums in the marching band and has a job at the local grocery store. At the beginning of this year, he was diagnosed with COVID-19.

“I don’t know how I got it,” he said. “It’s between going to school or going to work.”

Five months later, his symptoms of dizziness, acid reflux, and anxiety persist.

“Right now I can’t really push myself or I’ll start to get dizzy and stuff,” he said. “But it’s a very boring day, I can tell you that. It’s not that active… It’s been hard, I have to follow a really disciplined diet and I take a lot of vitamins.”

Edwards said what Coffey suffers from is typical of long-distance pediatric patients.

“I mean, almost a textbook,” she said. “His course was very typical. He was recovering from COVID. And I think it was about a week or so later that it went downhill.

She currently treats four patients like Coffey.

“They’re not 100% sure how long it will take for me to heal,” Coffey said. “Could be months, could be weeks.”

The new clinic is expected to open in August and for Dr. Edwards can’t move fast enough.

“I’m guessing there are a lot more kids who are long-winded than we realize, and they’re just sitting at home and the parents are just doing it,” she said.

It is estimated that 10% of adults who have had COVID are considered long-term, but “we have absolutely no idea if the numbers in children are anything like that. Ten percent seems like a huge number,” Edwards said. “I’m hoping it’s much lower, like more in the one to two percent range, but we have no idea.”

She hopes that when the clinic opens, more parents will bring their children to get treatments, like those who help Coffey.

“Even a few days after the doctors helped me — I just felt a lot better,” he said.

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