RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) School of Nursing is taking part in a national initiative by the National Institutes of Health — Researching COVID to Enhance (RECOVER) Recovery — to understand the long-term impacts of COVID-19 in the youth and young adult population.

More than 200 families are taking part in the effort led by VCU.

The region’s project coordinator, VCU registered nurse Lindsey Stevenson, said for some time, many thought COVID-19 symptoms would come and go.

“We’ve seen that that’s not necessarily the case,” Stevenson said, “There’s a good amount of kids that have these lingering symptoms after being infected that they just don’t know what’s going on.”

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Stevenson added there are an array of symptoms that continue to lingering, in addition to changes that can occur to one’s mental health.

Rylee Joyce of Martinsville is one child who is taking part in the research project and spoke with 8News about her experience with the virus.

Joyce first contracted the virus in December of 2020 and again in January of 2022.

“I found out on Christmas Eve. I got the test back and I was like ‘oh this stinks.’ It was rough,” she said. “My biggest issue is I can’t walk, the majority of the time — today I can, which is just lovely, all the other days I have a walker and a wheelchair which is not the greatest.”

Joyce used to enjoy outings of all sorts with her family; dancing ballet, traveling and even had dreams of joining the military.

This all was cut short for some time with the contraction of COVID-19.

Her mother, Dee said that after the second contraction of the virus, her daughter began to have barking cough, shallow breath, and an overall hard time keeping up as usual which lasted for months.

“She had migraines, lots of body aches and pains. She would tell me she felt like she would have a stroke,” said Dee Joyce of Martinsville, “My child went from sleeping barely to sleeping all day long and then just only up for about two hours and then she would vomit.”

Symptoms in Rylee continued to worsen with aching joints, temporary loss of hearing and pain in her eyes.

Dee said at first, doctors said children were resilient in terms of recovery in COVID-19, but as symptoms worsened, health professionals could not determine the cause of Rylee’s condition.

Dee began to document Rylee’s progress and reached out to a friend who also happened to be a health professional at VCU, who referred her to the RECOVER initiative.

Stevenson said it may be a few years until the full findings are published, but parents are notified of each result regarding their child as tests continue.

The goal is to spread awareness of the remaining effects of COVID-19 and ensure each parent and their child does not bear the load alone.

To learn more about the study or to enroll your child, visit VCU’s School of Nursing website.