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Witvliet’s REDtalk shares struggle with Chronic COVID Syndrome

Margot Gage Witvliet
Margot Gage Witvliet

Margot Gage Witvliet, a social epidemiologist and sociology professor at Lamar University, discussed her battle with Chronic COVID Syndrome during a REDtalk, Oct 14, in the Setzer Student Center. Witvliet said she was misdiagnosed as having anxiety (her COVID test was initially negative). She also addressed medical professionals’ burnout.

Witvliet said she had no prior health conditions and lived a healthy lifestyle, exercising regularly, and did not smoke. She was on one of the last flights from Paris to the United States in March 2020, when she was exposed to COVID-19. Since then, she has suffered from “long-haul COVID’ or Chronic COVID Syndrome.

“My plane landed on March 2 of 2020, and roughly 10 days later I started experiencing my first symptoms,” she said. “My husband, daughters and I were all sick at about the same time for about a week, but I just kept getting sicker.”

By the third week of March 2020, Witvliet went to the emergency room for the first time, but she did not match the specific list of symptoms provided by the CDC, including the most important, having a fever. 

“I had one of the first non-FDA approved tests in Texas, and my test came back negative,” she said. “So that's one of the reasons doctors thought I didn't have COVID-19, but I knew something was wrong.”

These same tests had warning labels stating that if they came back negative, the medical care provider should investigate the patient’s health history. The tests were later found to be unreliable.

“The nurse treating me said, ‘I've been doing this for 30 years,’” Witvliet said. “She looked straight at me. She took her mask off and said, ‘You’re not going to die, you have blood clots,’

Witvliet said they did a CT scan, checking for blood clots, but it came back negative. She said everyone was wearing masks when they returned to the room.

Specialists and doctors did not take her symptoms seriously and her requests for help after the blood clot tests and results, Witvliet said. She said the doctors spoke to her husband instead of her.

“It was like I was a nine-year-old girl who had gone to the office visit with her father, instead of a 38-year-old woman with a PhD.,” she said. “(The doctor) ignored all of my other symptoms. He tapped on my chest for two seconds, and then gave me a diagnosis of a respiratory illness. He then proceeded to prescribe me medication for anxiety and left the room.”

Witvliet said she eventually found new specialists who listened to her.

During the post-talk Q&A, Witvliet encouraged nursing students to leave their biases at the door when they meet people and to have compassion.

Category: News