Leading Long COVID expert becomes patient, using unique therapy to ease symptoms

Flow Therapy usually used on cardiac patients now being used for Long COVID

SAN ANTONIO – People with Long COVID can have a wide range of symptoms that can last weeks, months, or even years after infection.

The initial infection is often mild, but the following symptoms become severe.

San Antonio is lucky to have had one of the world’s top experts on Long COVID working locally since the beginning of the pandemic.

Dr. Monica Verduzco-Gutierrez created and still runs the UT Health San Antonio and University Health Long COVID clinics.

In this story, however, she is the patient.

Last year, Verduzco-Gutierrez got a mild case of COVID that mainly felt like allergies, but two weeks later, it hit her.

“Overwhelming exhaustion and like broke out with hives all over my body and with the migraine, changes in some of my heart rate and blood pressure,” she said.

After the official four weeks of symptoms, Verduzco-Gutierrez knew what she had.

One of the first things she did was go to Flow Therapy, where she often sends her patients.

Flow Therapy, also known as Enhanced External Counter Pulsation (or EECP), has been around for 20 years.

It is mainly used for people with cardiovascular disease and heart failure, but it has recently shown success for many Long COVID patients.

The company reports about 88% of patients report a significant improvement in their health.

“These are the set of cuffs that we use. We have them at the patient’s calves thighs and right below the hips,” said Flow Therapy Clinical Director Cecily Hannah, showing the table and Velcro cuffs.

She explained that it helps blood flow through the body from the legs all the way up.

“Then we hook everybody up to a three-lead EKG. The therapy works with their heart rate. So, their heart rate is what drives the machine to pump,” Hannah said.

“It’s healing your vasculature. It’s healing the inflammation. It’s helping our heart pump better,” Verduzco Gutierrez said.

Each therapy session lasts for an hour. There are 35 sessions total and patients go Monday-Friday.

“Don’t be afraid of the time commitment because it’s worth it. And they can work around your schedule,” Verduzco-Gutierrez said.

She said it was easy to get used to.

“I could even answer emails and, you know, be on my phone during that time or listening to meetings,” she said. “Most people just relax and watch TV.”

Verduzco-Gutierrez felt immediate results and now, she’s back to living her life.

As a marathon runner, she was not able to run even two miles with her symptoms.

“It got me to be able to workout, to be able to work out every day again, and then the other symptoms have been much better control as well,” she said.

Even more importantly, she’s getting to focus more on her patients who she can now relate to more than ever.

Flow Therapy has offices across Texas. For more information head to their website.

For more information on the local Long COVID clinics, head to the UT Health San Antonio and the University Health websites.

About the Authors:

Courtney Friedman is a KSAT anchor and reporter. She has an ongoing series called Loving in Fear, confronting Bexar County’s domestic violence epidemic. She's also covered Hurricane Harvey, the shootings in Sutherland Springs and Santa Fe, and tornadoes throughout Texas. She’s a California native and proud Longhorn who loves calling SA home.