By Charlie Senack
Barrhaven teen Ashleigh Pomerant was at her prime before catching COVID-19 in June. Now she’s known as a COVID-19 long hauler who is trying to gain her old life back.
Pomerant, a 17-year-old grade 12 student at Longfields Davidson Heights High School, said the first 10 days of having the virus were the worst. She says watching TV was the only activity she could do, but even that was sometimes hard. One day, watching ‘High School Musical’ became too much; brain fog made the high paced dancing scenes and music too much to bear.
“I had just a mild fever, shortness of breath — getting up off the couch was like I just sprinted up the stairs,” said Pomerant. “I had a lot of aches and pains in my legs. Just in general brain fog where I’d get confused very easily and a lot of fatigue.”
It’s been almost 10 months since Pomerant first contracted COVID-19, and she’s still reeling from the effects of the virus. Pomerant is known as a COVID-19 longhauler, which means you still feel the impacts of the virus long after testing negative.
Typically, it hits older or more compromised people, not someone like Pomerant who went for frequent runs, played sports, and was a part of many clubs and extracurricular activities in school. Pomerant, an otherwise healthy 17-year-old, had no major health issues before contracting COVID-19.
“I’ve had slow improvements and it’s not linear,” she said of her improvements. “I’ll have some good days and I’ll have some bad days. It hit a point in July and August where it did hit get better. But since September it’s been stronger improvements.”
Pomerant says she can now sing without getting out of breath and is going for regular walks. She still can’t walk and talk, and aches and pains still pop up. Her breathing is not fully back to normal, but it’s getting there.
“It was really scary because I really had no idea if this was going to be my life forever or if I’d eventually get better,” said Pomerant. “I’m still not pushing myself a lot. I’m just able to go for a walk most days. After that I’m ok so I don’t wanna push myself and end up back where I was.”
How Pomerant caught COVID-19 still remains a medical mystery. Her mother caught the virus a month before in May and showed similar symptoms. She never went for a COVID test but had a positive diagnosis after going to the emergency room. They ran various tests, including an X-ray of her chest and blood work, which confirmed the diagnosis. Her mom also does not know where she contracted the virus; most likely through community spread in a place like a grocery store.
Pomerant says she believes she must have caught COVID-19 from her mom, but why she showed no symptoms for almost a month remains unclear.
“Maybe I was just asymptotic for that whole month and then something happened to trigger it. I really don’t know,” she said. “It’s a mystery.”
Pomerant now sees a naturopath to help with her diet and both a massage and physio therapist to help relax the muscles and regain strength. Her family doctor has also sent her for a variety of tests to see what damage — if any was done.
The grade 12 student also admits her final year of high school has been a struggle due to the exasperating brain fog.
“School has been really hard this year — harder than it’s been any other year because normally I do pretty well in school and I can balance it with my extra curriculars,” said Pomerant. “This year it’s been really different. But as the year has gone in and my health has improved, school has gotten easier.”
Pomerant also admits the long lasting effects of the virus has out much of her life in hold. She was unable to play ringuette last summer because she was weak and had no strength. Now this year she’s hoping for a summer where sports can be a big part of her life again.
The Barrhaven teen also says it’s been a hard adjustment for her friends. Not everyone understands why Pomerant isn’t like her old self and why she doesn’t have the energy of a typical 17-year-old.
“It’s hard because not all my friends really understand what I’ve gone through, but others have tried which is really good,” she said. “Others were just dismissive of it which is hard. It’s also meant I can’t always hangout at someone’s back deck to socialize safely so it’s been isolating, too.”
Pomerant was worried she’d have to delay attending university in the fall due to her side effects but is now confident she will be well by September. She plans to attend Ottawa or Carleton University for their international development program.
After following all safety precautions and thinking she’d never catch COVID, Pomerant now has a message for all those who believe it’s a hoax or isn’t taking it seriously.
“It’s annoying seeing online people who are gathering and everything and they haven’t gotten sick but I took all the precautions and I still got it,” said Pomerant. “You never know; it could happen to you. You never think it can be you but it can be and you really don’t want it.”