CLEVELAND — Eliana Rosario, a resident of northeast Ohio, had a mild case of COVID-19 at the end of 2020 when she was 14 years old.
"We had symptoms of losing sense of smell and taste, chills, aches, fevers," she said.
A few months later, while at band practice, she collapsed and wasn't able to move her legs.
“I find her on the floor,” said Jessica Rosario, Eliana’s mom. “She's got this spaced out look. Her eyes are pupils are dilated, her eyes are really glassy. She's not responding to me. I'm asking her questions and she can't get a word out and she can't move her arms or her legs.”
They rushed her to the hospital where doctors diagnosed her as a victim of COVID-long haul and said the virus had been attacking her immune system slowly until her body began to break down.
“It was really devastating to find out that COVID could do such a thing,” Eliana said.
Temporary paralysis left her unable to walk, and physical therapy became her new best friend, but school became an after-thought.
“My main focus was her health,” Jessica said. “My main focus was getting her walking again, getting her healthy, getting her strong.”
Online learning got a bad rap during the pandemic, with many districts not well equipped to handle it. But for Eliana, she called online learning her saving grace. She turned to Ohio Virtual Academy, a full-time online public school for students K-12.
"The nice thing with a student like Eliana, or students who do have kind of, you know, something going on, where they have doctor's appointments, they may have therapy, they may have to be away from their computer during the day, all of those live sessions are recorded," said Megan Daley, 12th grade principal, Ohio. "So if a student needs to take a break, or they need to go kind of to a doctor's appointment, they know they can come back to that later and watch that, or teachers are also available, they offer help sessions, and we'll work with students one on one as well.”
Daley said the school’s enrollment grew by the thousands during the pandemic. They welcome students with medical issues, mental health issues, and those who prefer to learn at their own pace, fast or slow.
“We've been doing online learning for over 20 years, for our brick and mortar schools, that was something brand new,” Daley said. “And through no fault of their own, it was just something that they weren't used to, where we have, you know, we have the curriculum, we have the platforms.”
Online school allowed Eliana to recover at home while keeping her education on track.
“I think without OHVA, I would be really behind academically,” Eliana said.
For the time being, she’s decided to stick with online schooling, while she continues to get stronger.
“Seeing the transition of her from wheelchair to walker to cane was absolutely amazing to see,” Jessica said. “Because this kid right here, she's resilient. She is tough, she is determined.”
Two years later, Eliana still deals with lingering symptoms of COVID-19. She said she's developed Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS) triggered by the virus, which makes her heart rate elevate rapidly after moving from sitting or lying down to standing.
“I still have anxiety, fatigue,” Eliana said. “I still don't have all my sense of smell and taste back.”
The virus has affected her life in ways she and her family never could have imagined, but still Eliana said she doesn’t feel like a victim. Instead, she uses her experience to share knowledge and inspire others that, no matter the situation, to remain hopeful.
“I’m actually kind of glad I did because I get to share with people that life happens, but don't give up because good things can come out of it,” Eliana said.
For more information about Ohio Virtual Academy, click here.