(CNN)Veronica Richmond is just 15, but she's skipped three grades and is about to graduate from high school in Boise, Idaho. But the self-described photographer, biologist, poet, graphic designer and debater now has a new identity she never wanted.
Kids struggle with Covid-19 and its months of aftermath
She is a Covid-19 long hauler, along with her sister Audrey and mother Jamie.
One of her friends came home in March after spending two years in Wuhan, China. That may have been the source of the virus that would cut across the whole Richmond family and leave them with six months — and counting — of fatigue, pain and uncertainty in its wake.
Jamie Richmond has tallied $6,000 in medical bills for two girls who were healthy until March.
Both girls now have a host of problems, including postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome, which causes a person's heart rate to shoot up upon standing and lead to dizziness or fainting.
"It's been horrific to go through this for so long," Richmond said.
More than 657,000 children and teens across the United States had tested positive for the virus as of October 1, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children's Hospital Association.
That figure is just over 10% of the more than 7 million US coronavirus cases so far, but it's likely underreported because it relied on state data that is inconsistently collected.
Researchers looking into the long-term effects of Covid-19 are taking notice about how long-haul symptoms are affecting children.
These researchers include a team at DePaul University in Chicago, who have launched two separate surveys, one for adults and the other for children, to help capture data on how patients are faring longer term after being diagnosed with Covid-19.
Long-haul children may be the most important cohort to research for a couple reasons, according to Leonard Jason, a professor of psychology at DePaul and director of the Center for Community Research, who leads that study.
"Kids are often more defenseless and don't have the age, maturity or resources to stick up for themselves," he said. "And kids are less complex in a lot of ways, so there are fewer extraneous factors."
He has spent much of his career studying post-viral symptoms across a range of diseases and trying to extract lessons from the aftermath of past epidemics.
"If you look at all the pandemics from the Spanish flu on down, a certain number of people never get better," he said. "At least 10% six months later seem to still be having symptoms. With Covid-19, I think the rates could be very much higher."
His team just completed a four-year study seeking to determine how many college students who contract mononucleosis ultimately develop chronic fatigue syndrome. He sees many of the same concerns with longer-term illnesses children with Covid-19 might develop.
"I fear that a lot of the people will fall through the cracks," he said.
The Richmond family in Boise does feel it's falling through the cracks, despite the parents' income and ability to take their kids to specialists for issues that have popped up, including vision loss and Sjogren's syndrome.
"We are incredibly privileged," Jamie Richmond said. "We are White and upper middle class. We have the means to help our girls. A lot of people can't do that."
At one point, that meant taking Audrey on three visits to the emergency room during a 10-day period. A doctor suggested she may have antiphospholipid syndrome, a rare autoimmune condition. But answers to the havoc Covid-19 has wreaked are fleeting.
Due to shortages in testing early on, the Richmonds weren't able to get tested while the virus was in its active stage, despite acute symptoms such as diarrhea and Covid toes, and that's when they say the medical system started ignoring them.
Their negative test results now feel like a black mark hindering them from getting adequate care, as doctors grapple with longer-term symptoms unexpected at the outside of the pandemic.
"They'll say one thing to your face but they won't treat you by what they say," Veronica Richmond said. "It's like they're lying and saying 'Yes, you have Covid, but no, I won't do anything about it. It makes you feel powerless."