New Mexico Girl, 4, Left Paralyzed After Contracting COVID-19 and Developing a Rare Neurological Disorder

A 4-year-old girl is paralyzed after being diagnosed with acute transverse myeliti, rare neurological disorder that affects the spine, as a result of contracting the novel coronavirus.

Stella Martin was rushed to San Juan Regional Medical Center in Farmington, New Mexico, in April 2020 after complaining to her mom about back pain, according to KOAT.

Her mother, Cassandra Yazzie, told the news station that Stella soon went limp in her arms and had to be airlifted to UNM Hospital in Albuquerque.

There, Stella was diagnosed with the novel coronavirus and acute transverse myeliti, Yazzie said.

Doctors believe Stella's antibodies started attacking her spinal cord, causing inflammation, KOAT reported.

According to the Mayo Clinic, transverse myelitis is an inflammation of the spinal cord that often damages the insulating material covering nerve cell fibers.

The disorder interrupts messages that the spinal cord nerves send throughout the body, causing pain, muscle weakness, sensory problems, bladder and bowel dysfunction, or paralysis.

Stella, whose father died from complications related to COVID-19 after she was admitted to the hospital, spent eight months at UNM before she was discharged on Monday.

In a video shared by UNM Health Sciences on Facebook this week, Stella was wheeled out of the hospital to a round of applause from medical workers.

"After a severe bout with COVID-19, 4-year-old Stella Martin is leaving UNM Hospital. Stella came into the hospital in April after contracting COVID-19. She spent over 5 months in the Pediatric ICU and arrived in the CTH Acute Service in October where she would celebrate her fourth birthday," UNM Health Sciences said in the post.

"We celebrate her recovery and the hard work and dedication of our health care team who work tirelessly to help patients like her."

Yazzie told KOAT that Stella is getting strength back in her arms and legs, though doctors have said that she's unlikely to fully recover.

"I just want everybody to stay safe, to not take COVID lightly," she said, "because it is affecting my daughter in a big way."

A GoFundMe campaign has been set up to support Stella. As of Friday, it has raised over $5,000 out of their $50,000 goal.

As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments. PEOPLE has partnered with GoFundMe to raise money for the COVID-19 Relief Fund, a fundraiser to support everything from frontline responders to families in need, as well as organizations helping communities. For more information or to donate, click here.

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