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High School Junior Lost 26 Pounds in Seven Days from Stevens Johnson Syndrome

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Scottsbluff, NE“To know that your 17-year-old son is playing basketball on a Thursday and then fighting for his life on a Friday to keep this disease from killing him, we absolutely don’t take anything for granted now.” Poignant words from a mother having just witnessed her once-healthy, athletic son descend into the hell of Stevens Johnson Syndrome. All due to taking medication for a simple sinus infection.

In fact, according to Holli Nelson in comments published in the Omaha World-Herald (3/14/13), her son Taylor had taken Zithromax before, without complication. But this time was different, and when he and his family began noticing the emergence of strange sores all over his mouth, Taylor was soon back at his doctor’s office.

That night, he was in the emergency room at Regional West Medical Center in Scottsbluff, Nebraska. And while doctors there had little experience with SJS, having only seen one other case, Taylor was nonetheless diagnosed with Stevens Johnson Syndrome and moved to the intensive care unit (ICU) at the hospital.

SJS often begins with strange sores, or with a Stevens Johnson Syndrome rash, amidst other indicators such as flu-like symptoms. However, once SJS emerges, it can be rapid and fierce, as was the case with Taylor.

“His type of Stevens-Johnson syndrome...can attack the mucous membranes or the skin,” Holli Nelson said, in comments published in the World-Herald. “It basically went from the top of his eyes to the bottom of his lungs and anything in between.”

As his condition worsened, doctors considered transferring their patient to another hospital more experienced with Stevens Johnson Syndrome symptoms. However, with Taylor’s immune system severely depleted, doctors were concerned he may pick up something at another hospital, including influenza.

“His throat began to close because of swelling, and they were going to intubate him and put a breathing tube down his throat, and then they would have flown him to a different hospital,” Taylor’s mother said, in comments published in the World-Herald. “The doctors’ fear was that his immune system was so low that they did not want to risk him picking up something else from another hospital.”

It took seven days of intense treatment in the hospital - six of those days in the ICU - before he improved enough to be released. That was in early February, and after losing 26 pounds through the ordeal, the young athlete is still recovering. That recovery from Stevens Johnson Syndrome skin disease, say his doctors, could take up to six months.

“I was pretty scared,” Taylor had said afterwards of his ordeal. “I don’t remember much - it was all a blur and it was pretty frightening.”

All because he was prescribed a simple antibiotic for an infection. Stevens Johnson Syndrome can be triggered through an allergic reaction to either prescription and even over-the-counter (OTC) medications. Plaintiffs in SJS lawsuits have complained to their Stevens Johnson Syndrome lawyers that warnings on medication labels continue to be inadequate. Taylor Nelson is a junior at Gering High School in Scottsbluff.

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