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'She didn’t even recognize herself': Westchester girl struggles with hallucinations tied to COVID-19

Posted at 6:20 PM, Sep 14, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-14 18:20:43-04

NEW ROCHELLE, N — The mother of a 12-year-old girl suffering from migraines and even apparent hallucinations months after she developed COVID-19 symptoms was so anguished by her daughter’s continuing ordeal that she started recording it.

Lazara Almonte told PIX11 News her daughter, Paris, was screaming.

"It was something she just couldn’t control,” the mother said. “She didn’t even recognize herself when she looked at herself in the mirror."

“It was very odd behavior. We never saw her act that way.”

PIX11 also spoke to the 7th grade student, Paris Almonte, on one of the days when she was feeling well. She said she initially experienced body aches back in March, six months ago.

“This was pain where I was feeling stabbing from the inside out,” the 12-year-old girl said. “I never had pain where I felt I couldn’t breathe.”

In one video, the mother recorded her daughter seemingly hanging from the bedroom door with her hands, trying to find relief.

Their first visit to Urgent Care was “virtual,” and the mom said a doctor diagnosed her daughter with likely COVID, because the 12-year-old girl was experiencing body aches, shortness of breath and gastrointestinal distress. At the time, doctors told the girl to take Tylenol to treat her body pains.

“It’s hard at night,” the girl’s father, German Almonte, told PIX11. “Sometimes, when I go to the bathroom in the middle of the night, she’s outside my room, crying.”

When the 12-year-old girl finally was admitted to a hospital in early May, a COVID test turned up negative.

A neurologist was puzzled that the girl could not remember her hallucinations, but child and adolescent psychiatrist Dr. Scott Krakower of Zucker Hillside Hospital, who did not treat Paris, told PIX11 not everyone would recall them.

“A part of the delirium could be having hallucinations," Dr. Krakower said. "You may not necessarily remember the hallucination.”

He pointed out the virus can affect the olfactory nerve in the brain, which controls taste and smell, so it’s not surprising it may affect other nerves in the brain.

“It’s a hard illness,” Krakower said of COVID-19. “There’s so much unknown. We’re still in the infancy stage of it.”

Dr. Laila Woc-Colburn, an infectious disease expert and professor with Emory University, has talked to us about COVID-19 since coronavirus first started seriously impacting the United States in March.

She spoke about the A-C-E 2 receptor that “SARS Cov 2 binds to.”

“We have these receptors in several parts of the body. The most famous is in the lungs," Woc-Colburn said. “The receptor attaches to many parts of the body."

After Paris Almonte was released from a Westchester hospital in mid May, her mother said the medicine they were given in efforts to control the girl’s confusion and hallucinations was not helpful.

“The side effects of a lot of the medication were suicidal thoughts and depression,” the mother said.

The girl stopped taking the medication.

Six months after the initial symptoms, Lazara Almonte now says her daughter is “about 50 percent better.”

The girl was being home schooled online by a Christian church the family is affiliated with when she first got sick.

At one point, Lazara Almonte could be heard saying prayers in the middle of the night, when she was recording audio of her daughter’s night terrors.

On the first day we met Paris, she was in good spirits and going to meet some friends.

The next day, it was raining and she couldn’t do the first interview.

“When it rains, for some odd reason, she becomes completely confused,” the mother said. "The hallucinations start again.”

The next day, the 12-year-old girl was her bubbly self again and did the television interview with PIX11.

Paris Almonte and her mother said they recently visited another neurologist in Manhattan; they said the new doctor told the family there was some swelling on the right side of the girl’s brain.

“I’m feeling hopeful,” Paris Almonte said.“It was like, ‘I know what’s going on. I’m not crazy.”