Chimére L. Smith, 40, told NBC News that doctors characterized her as "aggressive" after insisting her headaches were COVID-related.
In March 2020, Smith had a mild case of COVID that she expected to pass in a few weeks.
However, in the months following, the 40-year-old suffered from extreme fatigue, dry mouth, brain fog, diarrhea, and a sore throat.
She also lost 30 pounds and complete vision in her left eye as she struggled with pain in her spine.
After having to visit hospitals constantly, Smith said she contemplated suicide.
“I would come in with notes of my symptoms and share these symptoms with these doctors and they would not hear me. They wouldn’t listen to me. They would treat me as if I was a child and I didn’t know my body,” Smith recalled to NBC News. “I wanted to die because I could not eat. I could hardly drink. I couldn’t think. Everything that I knew about my life within those first two or three months had been destroyed.”
With no help from doctors, Smith turned to a support group she found on Facebook called the BIPOC Women Long Covid ‘Long Hauler’ Support Group, which social epidemiologist Dr. Margot Gage Witvliet created in July 2020 following her own struggles with the virus.
“I wanted to be able to use the fact that I was a professor and a social epidemiologist to really help these women who were suffering,” Witvliet said in a statement. “So that’s what this group has done. And I’ve met some really phenomenal women, and we have lasting friendships in this group because we’re all unified by this trauma that’s happened to us.”
Smith said the group has grown to be a "family" and taught her how to be a better advocate for herself.
“I am very proud to be a part of that group,” said Smith. “As a matter of fact, that group is where I now spend a lot of my time because we’ve become family because we all share the same experiences.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), post-COVID symptoms can last weeks, months, or years and include tiredness or fatigue, worsening of symptoms, fevers, difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, coughing, chest pain, heart palpitations, difficulty concentrating or brain fog, headaches, insomnia, dizziness, depression, and anxiety.
Long-COVID is now considered a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act, per Black Enterprise.
If you or someone you know need mental health help, text "STRENGTH" to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 to be connected to a certified crisis counselor.