OTTAWA -- COVID-19 patients who experience symptoms months after infection are heading to “post COVID-19 clinics” for treatment and to hopefully discover why their illness is prolonged.

Violaine Cousineau, an English literature teacher in Montreal, is among the first people to be treated at the post COVID-19 clinic at the Montreal Clinical Research Institute (IRCM), which opened earlier this month to provide care to those experiencing long-term symptoms and to research these prolonged experiences with the virus.

Cousineau contracted COVID-19 from her daughter four months ago and is now a shell of her former self.

“I never imagined that I could be as sick as I am right now,” she told CTV News in French.

Cousineau is typically an active woman and an avid reader, but both activities have been difficult since contracting the virus. The 47 year old now requires a cane and finds stairs too painful to climb. Concentrating is also difficult, making it impossible for her to get through a novel.

“I don’t recognize the person that I am,” she said.

Cousineau is known as a COVID-19 “long hauler,” meaning a patient who has experienced symptoms of the virus long after infection, sometimes months later. It remains unclear just how many people experience symptoms weeks or even months after infection.

“At least three to six months out, for symptoms like fatigue, we've seen ranges from 30 per cent to maybe even 70 per cent of the patients still having persistent symptoms,” said Dr. Emilia Liana Falcone, the director of the Montreal clinic.

The Montreal clinic is among several post COVID-19 clinics across Canada and around the world, which aim to support these long haulers.

While at these clinics, patients are given several tests, from blood tests to echocardiograms, which doctors hope will help figure out why they experience these complications.

“That would be the goal: to get to the point where we can effectively treat them,” Falcone said.

Researchers at the Montreal clinic aim to compile some initial findings in the coming months.

With files from The Canadian Press and CTV News Montreal