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Middle TN woman battles autoimmune disorder believed to be linked to COVID-19 infection

The disorder is called ITP, which destroys platelets in a person's blood which usually stop a person from bleeding.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A Marshall County woman said her life turned upside down when she was diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder months after she had a mild case of COVID-19.

The disorder is called ITP, or Idiopathic Thrombocytopenic Purpura. It destroys platelets in a person's blood, which are meant to keep them from bleeding.

Doctors at Vanderbilt University Medical Center said ITP is rarely associated with COVID-19, but they can be related. They said ITP is linked to other viruses like HIV, hepatitis, and Zika — so it is not new. That's why Adriana Stoltz, a Vanderbilt patient, believes COVID put her where she is today.

Stoltz is a wife, mother, and 31-year-old who had the energy to travel anywhere at any time. But a year ago, life took a turn.

"Initially, I had a very mild infection with COVID," she said. "I just lost my sense of taste and smell."

Stoltz said she recovered and felt fine. That's until she started seeing spots on her legs and arms.

"I noticed my bruises would be darker in color, and they would stay on my body longer," Stoltz said. "And it was easier for me to bruise."

She visited a doctor in east Tennessee who diagnosed her with ITP. An autoimmune disorder brought her platelet count, which should be between 150,000 - 350,000, down to 35,000.

"The body is basically attacking the platelets and destroying them," said Dr. Lindsey Goodman, a doctor with VUMC.

Dr. Goodman started working with Stoltz at Vanderbilt later in her process. At the time, Stoltz was taking high doses of steroids as treatment. But she wasn't responding well to them, so Dr. Goodman put her on chemotherapy drugs.

"So, I finished my fourth treatment a day before I turned 31," Stoltz said. "And here we are just a few months out."

Stoltz believes she wouldn't be here if it wasn't for her initial mild COVID infection.

"That was the only illness I had suffered at that point," she said. "So, it seems like two plus two equals four."

"It's very possible that this is related to the COVID infection that she had," Goodman said. "There is some data that has come out of the Cleveland Clinic. They looked at 3,000 patients that had COVID, and about .3% of those patients ended up with ITP."

It's rare, but Stoltz says she found others going through the same disorder after taking to social media.

"For it being a rare condition, it sure feels like there's a lot of people that are suffering through it right now," Stoltz said.

Stoltz says the disorder takes a toll on her life. Her energy isn't there like it used to.

"It's difficult for me not to be able to play soccer with my daughter," she said. "That's just something I used to do, no questions asked, eyes closed."

Stoltz said every day, she feels fatigued, and it's hard to make it through the day without a nap. Unfortunately, doctors say she will need to deal with the changes every day for the rest of her life.

This story was originally reported by WSMV in Nashville.