NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) - Vanderbilt University Medical Center physicians are praising the miraculous turnaround for a Nashville man who was diagnosed with a rare tumor.

David Covington struggled to walk, stand, and, at times, get out of bed. For nearly two years, he didn't have an explanation as to why. 

“I definitely thought for a while that I was crazy. It was it was it was really hard to not know what was happening," said Covington.

The Metro Nashville Public School teacher said what started as general muscle weakness progressed over time, experiencing dozens of tiny fractures that kept him in pain, and eventually had to use a walker and having to teach while sitting on a stool. He went from doctor to doctor, underwent several rounds of physical therapy, but didn't see any improvement. Then, he was referred to endocrinologist Kathryn Dahir at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

"The accumulation of pain and disability and fractures was really the red flag that something unusual was happening. And that's when you dig a little bit deeper to see what's going on,” said Dahir.

She suspected Covington had an especially rare disorder known as “Tumor-Induced Osteomalacia” or TIO. For those with TIO, the tumor ultimately prevents bones from being able to regenerate. After additional scans, Dahir noticed something suspicious: a small dot at the back of his brain. Dr. Reid Thompson, a neurosurgeon, agreed with Dahir that it could be the tumor responsible for Covington's symptoms.

“You know, in medicine, it's really rare that you have an opportunity to actually cure someone. But with this small, super rare tumor, if you remove it, you have a chance to cure them,” said Thompson.

After surgery, Covington began undergoing physical therapy and was able to walk in just a few weeks. Today, Covington stands in front of his classroom with ease. 

“I mean, you almost never see that in medicine. I mean, in 30 years of medicine, I've never seen anything like it. I've never seen anything like it,” said Thompson.

Covington believes being at the right place with the right doctors made the difference.

"If I wasn't here at Vanderbilt with Dr. Dahir and Dr. Thompson, I can tell you, I really don’t think I would be where I am,” said Covington.

Researchers estimate 30 million Americans are living with an undiagnosed illness. Both Dahir and Thompson encourage people struggling to get a diagnosis to keep asking questions, do their own research, and look for second and third opinions. They remind people that they are their best advocate for getting answers.

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