MAYFIELD HEIGHTS, OHIO (WJW)- After months of searching for answers to a startling medical condition a Mayfield Heights teen and her family finally have answers.
Despite no positive COVID tests, 15-year-old Gwendolyn Zeroff is now battling long COVID with frightening fainting episodes linked to POTS known as postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome.
Zeroff said her first symptoms began in 2022 when her homecoming dance turned into a night to remember for all the wrong reasons when she fainted.
“I mean, it was very scary,” said Jessica Lauro, Zeroff’s mother. “I mean, it’s still very scary.”
Fainting has not stopped for Zeroff who now wears a helmet while at home to avoid injury during episodes. Zeroff no longer attends school in person due to concerns for her health and safety. Fainting episodes increased since they began in September.
During an episode, she can remain unconscious for as little as thirty seconds to an hour and a half with no warning an episode is about to start.
“And then I’ll have like a period after where I’m unresponsive where I can’t talk I can’t move or anything,” said Zeroff. “I can’t move my arms. I can’t move my legs. I can only just follow people with my eyes or sometimes it’s like blink twice if you can hear me and I can answer to those.”
Lauro said her daughter was diagnosed in March and credits the care team at UH Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital for seriously investigating her symptoms and determining a treatment plan.
A hospital spokesperson said the long COVID clinic has seen 225 patients since opening in 2021 and receives six to ten new referrals every week.
“How many times do you think we’ve gone to the E.R.? 30, 20, 30? I don’t know many times,” said Lauro. “So, you know, you start to, like, lose faith in health care and we just we felt very isolated I think.”
Now equipped with some clarity about her daughter’s condition Lauro encourages other parents to advocate for their children no matter how long it takes.
“Keep pushing and getting second opinions and, you know, being persistent,” said Lauro.
The family created a GoFundMe to help with medical expenses for their daughter’s care.