NORFOLK, Va. — Things still aren’t quite the same for Mattie Smith.
“Weeks turned into months, I felt like something wasn’t quite right," Smith said, a Tazewell County nurse and mom.
Nine months after her initial COVID-19 infection, Smith admitted herself to a local emergency room after experiencing shortness of breath, before an endocrinologist eventually diagnosed her with Hashimoto's Disease, an autoimmune disorder that affects a person's thyroid.
"I was told it was dormant and then COVID woke it up," Smith said.
Smith shared her story Thursday afternoon at the University of Virginia's "A New Normal" congressional briefing on federal research and initiatives to look at long-COVID with Rep. Con Beyer (D-VA 8th District) and Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine.
The briefing comes on the same day as the nation's public health emergency for COVID-19 expired.
Kaine shared how three years after his COVID-19 diagnosis, he's still dealing with the effects of his initial infection.
"This nerve-tingling thing switched on like a light switch, which three years later, feels like my nerves are dipped in Alka-Seltzer,” he said.
Smith’s challenge in finding proper care highlighted a central theme that patients across the country feel as though their symptoms are either overlooked or misunderstood by medical professionals.
The RECOVER initiative through the National Institute of Health (NIH), one of the speakers in the UVA congressional briefing, aims at building a database and researching long COVID patients.
One recent study they cite from February of this year shows that Black and Hispanic populations are more likely to have symptoms of long COVID compared to white populations, according to research conducted using more than 60,000 patients in New York City between March 2020 and October 2021.