Most children who get COVID-19 show few to no usual signs of sickness.
Eight-year-old Brooklynn Chiles of Washington, D.C. is one such child. The young girl has tested positive for the virus three times. She is fully vaccinated against the coronavirus. She has never shown serious signs of the disease.
Today, doctors are trying to understand why she keeps getting infected.
One time when she caught the virus, her father also got sick. He later died. Her mother, Danielle, is worried that Brooklyn could also get very sick the next time she catches the virus.
Chiles said she wonders if her daughter is going to die, too. “Is this the moment where I lose everyone?” she asked.
The COVID-19 pandemic started in late 2019. It is linked to more than 6 million deaths around the world. But its effects on children are not well known.
Over 12 million children in the U.S. are estimated to have tested positive for the virus. However, the virus does not seem to be as dangerous for children as it is for older adults.
Some people call what happens to children “bizarre.” Some children suffer from what is known as “long COVID.” Others get re-infected, like Brooklynn. Some even seem to get sick and then recover, only to have severe organ inflammation later on.
At Children’s National Hospital in Washington, D.C., Brooklynn and other children are subjects of a study. Doctors at the hospital are getting money from the National Institutes of Health to study the long-term effects of COVID-19 on children.
The hospital has about 200 children up to age 21 in the study, which will go on for three years. They undergo many tests on their first visit to the hospital. Doctors take blood, listen to their heart and check their lungs.
Roberta DeBiasi is the doctor leading the study. She said the researchers are trying to understand the problems children suffer after getting COVID, and how common they are.
Another girl in the study is Alyssa Carpenter. She is three years old. She had COVID-19 two times and also has unusual symptoms, such as high fevers and foot pain. Sometimes she lies down and points to her chest and says she has pain there, too.
Alyssa’s parents, Tara and Tyson Carpenter, have two other daughters. They said the pandemic caused a lot of problems in their lives. But they are most worried about Alyssa whom they do not know how to help.
Tara Carpenter called the situation “super frustrating.” She said she has been looking for answers to her daughter’s problems, but no one is able to provide them.
Some days, the little girl is doing just fine. Other days, she has a fever or pain. But lately, the family says she is doing a little better.
One doctor working on the study is Linda Herbert. She does a psychological test. She talks to the children about things like the quality of their sleep, the worries they have, how they get along with other children and whether they have trouble remembering things.
She said there are many symptoms, adding that many children are worried about getting sick again.
Herbert said psychological symptoms are just as common as physical symptoms, like pain. And it is not just the children who have a lot of worries. The parents, brothers and sisters of the children have stress and anxiety, too.
Brooklynn’s mother, Danielle, is working hard to keep her emotions from affecting her daughter. She is working to support her family now that her husband died. She also is dealing with her sadness and trying not to show her feelings to her daughter.
She wanted to put Brooklynn in the study so more people would learn about the need for vaccines, especially among Black people. Her husband Rodney was not vaccinated. He suffered from pre-existing conditions and died at the age of 42.
Chiles said one of the last things her husband said before he died was “forgive me.”
She said it is true that many children are not getting sick if they catch the virus. However, “they are losing,” she said.
“They’re losing parents, social lives…years.” Chiles said: “Yes, kids are resilient, but they can’t go on like this. No one is this resilient.”
I’m Dan Friedell.
Dan Friedell adapted this story for Learning English based a report by The Associated Press.
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Words in This Story
test positive – v. show the presence of a germ, virus or condition through a medical test
moment – n. a certain point in time
bizarre– adj. very unusual or strange
inflammation – n. a condition in which a part of your body becomes red, swollen, and painful
symptom – n. a change in the body or mind which indicates that a disease is present
fever – n. a body temperature that is higher than normal
frustrate – v. to cause someone to feel angry or upset because they cannot do what they want to do
stress – n. a state of mental tension involving worry
anxiety – n. fear or nervousness about what might happen
resilient – n. able to become strong, healthy, or successful again after something bad happens