"The Z-pack didn't seem to be clearing up my symptoms, in fact they were getting worse," says Mary Ellen. "I saw an ear, nose and throat specialist and he thought it was a virus. Then I noticed marks on my hip like blood blisters, and later on my stomach and down my left leg. The one on my leg became very painful—I waited a few more days then went back to the clinic. The doctor didn't like the way it looked and told me to get to ER right away—the rash was spreading.
When I got to ER they put me in quarantine—they thought I had Anthrax. I was freaking out! I felt fine now except for the pain in my leg. I saw so many doctors and more blood work than you could imagine. Everything was coming up negative; it was puzzling to say the least. They ruled out that I was contagious. I was admitted to hospital on Monday but they couldn't treat me for anything until Thursday. I didn't like that idea so they released me Monday night. Thursday morning I met the infectious disease specialist. I was taking Advil for pain and the rash was just about all over my body by now. As soon as he saw me, I was admitted again.
The cultures came back and I was diagnosed with drug-induced vasculitis. [Drug-induced vasculitis can lead to irreversible and life-threatening vasculitic organ damage--e.g. end-stage renal disease or pulmonary haemorrhage—if the offending drug is not discontinued immediately.]
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I'd taken Z-pack before and it was OK but this time the virus and the antibiotic clashed. When I was diagnosed with SJS, shocked isn't the word: I had such a severe case they thought I wasn't going to make it. When I found out SJS was fatal, I was in so much pain it didn't register until later. But my family was terrified. This happened last October and I am still in so much pain.
I'm a nervous wreck now: what if it happens again? I'd never heard of SJS symptoms before but now I hear it everywhere, on the learning channel, in the newspaper. I am still being treated at the burn center because I still have open sores all over my legs. And I got laid off from work—it is costing me a fortune. My recovery is going to be a long process."