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‘She couldn’t catch her breath’: Edmonton-area mom warns others about long-haul COVID in children

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WATCH ABOVE: An Edmonton-area mother warns children can get sick from COVID and stay sick, after her daughter has been suffering with long-haul symptoms. Kendra Slugoski reports – Jun 17, 2021

Kinsley Esch was always the leader of the pack.

The 11-year-old would wake up at 6 a.m. to tackle four-kilometre walks with her mother, Jody Esch, whom would struggle to keep pace with her energetic daughter.

In April 2021, something was off.

Esch and her three children were out for an afternoon walk and Kinsley couldn’t keep up.

“She was really short of breath, really fatigued, really tired,” said Esch.

Kinsley would soon learn she was a close contact of someone on her school bus and her COVID-19 test came back positive.

That was April 24, 2021, and it wasn’t until after her isolation period was over that other symptoms started showing up. Kinsley was with her mom on one of those early morning walks.

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“It wasn’t immediately,” said Esch, “and it wasn’t until about day 10 when I’m like, ‘Oh, she’s having a hard time breathing and keeping up.'”

“I noticed that it was like harder to breathe than it normally was,” said Kinsley.

Read more: COVID-19 ‘long-haulers’ warn of ongoing health issues months after diagnosis

At one point, Kinsley ended up at Stollery Children’s Hospital and was tested for a blood clot in her lungs and MIS-C, a rare but serious complication associated with children and COVID-19.

Thankfully, said her mom, both tests came back negative.

Kinsley was given two inhalers to help with her breathing and she is now getting treatment at a physiotherapy clinic.

Read more: Children can be COVID-19 long haulers but it is very rare, experts say

Her physical therapist James Dean, at Active Physio Works in St. Albert, Alta., said Kinsley is one of many long-haul COVID patients he is working with, but she is by far the youngest.

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Dean said typically children recover quicker than adults.

Kinsley Esch, works with physical therapist, James Dean, to build up cardiovascular strength after COVID-19 illness. Charles Taylor / Global News

“We’re seeing that with Kinsley, she’s doing awesome,” Dean said. “We’re seeing really good recovery with her. I’m happy with her progress. Some of my adult patients aren’t progressing as quickly.”

Those lingering symptoms can include shortness of breath, light headedness, headaches, nausea and increased sensitivity to light and noise.

“Just walking from your bedroom to the bathroom to the kitchen can be very difficult for somebody.”

With Kinsley and other patients, Dean said the training is a gradual, graded approach to exercise and to “press the envelope so they can handle more and more each time.”

Kinsley’s heart rate and oxygen saturation is measured while she walks on a treadmill, and there are often breaks to sit down when she is feeling out of breath and fatigued.

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Dean said the long-haul symptoms are still new for everyone and his clinic is keeping a close eye on evolving research on how to best treat people with lingering issues.

Kinsley’s mom said this has been a wake-up call for everyone involved.

”Oh so hard and so stressful,” said Esch. “Just so upsetting to see that. I wish in hindsight that I could have done something different to protect her.”

Esch knows that wasn’t possible. Her older daughter, Addison, 12, also tested positive for COVID and is fine. She hasn’t had any other health issues.

Esch, along with her son, Landon, 8, and husband, Matt, all tested negative.

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Kinsley Esch, 11, with her family prior to testing positive for COVID-19. Supplied
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Kinsley Esch, 11, with her brother and sister. Prior to testing positive for COVID-19, Kinsley was energetic and led the way on family walks. Supplied

The last couple of months have been filled with stress and medical appointments. Esch has adjusted her work schedule to drive her children to and from school. There are a lot of extra precautions.

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Not knowing if and when Kinsley would recover has forced the family to take their new reality one day at a time.

“A lot more worry, I think, than there was before,” said Esch.

“If she’s having a great day, a great morning, then, ‘Yes, let’s get you up, let’s go to school.’ If you’re having an off morning, then maybe today is not the best day to go to school and kind of see how things go.”

The mother of three wants other families to know kids can get sick and stay sick.

“We just don’t know, so I think there’s just fear surrounding that and I just hope that as many people as possible that can, get the vaccine.”

Read more: Pfizer to study COVID-19 vaccine in children under 12

Esch also can’t wait for younger age groups to qualify for the vaccine and said “just because they’re a kiddo, doesn’t mean they can’t have the long-hauler effects of COVID. They can get it just like anybody else.”

Her hope for Kinsley this summer is to see her back on her bike, swimming and jumping on the trampoline.

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Kinsley also can’t wait to get back to her pre-COVID active self.

“I just hope I can get outside and do lots of activities and hopefully get better.”

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