When a Georgia woman went to her local pharmacy to pick up an antidepressant, she might have expected a few side effects while she adjusted to her new prescription. But never in a million years did she think it would burn off her skin (Warning: graphic photos below).
"Three years ago, my life changed forever," Khaliah Shaw, a 26-year-old from Snellville, Georgia, told WXIA-TV. "This did not have to happen. This was not just some sort of fluke in my opinion. This happened as a direct result of somebody's error."
Shaw has filed a lawsuit saying that she contracted Stevens-Johnson syndrome, a rare skin disorder, after she was given the wrong dosage of a common depression medication. So far, her medical bills total more than $3.45 million, the lawsuit says.
According to Shaw, a doctor prescribed her lamotrigine in 2014. It was the wrong dosage, but pharmacists did not catch the error and filled it anyway, she said. For two weeks, "everything was OK," but her life quickly turned into what she describes as a living hell.
"I was in excruciating pain," she recounted. "It felt like I was on fire."
Her body reacted badly to the dosage, and she broke out in blisters from head to toe. Her skin peeled off, and she was eventually put into a medically induced coma for five weeks.
"It essentially causes your body to burn from the inside out and you pretty much just melt," said Shaw.
Now, Shaw said that looking at photos of her old self feels like losing a loved one.
Stevens-Johnson syndrome is not curable.
"They're telling me this could happen again, and they're telling me if it did happen again, that it would be worse," explained Shaw, who is also losing her vision. "I never heard of Steven-Johnson syndrome until I was in the hospital with my skin melting off of my body. That's when I learned what it was. It's important to know what's in your body."
Since 2010, reported medication errors have risen 462 percent. Some say that this is because they were not previously monitored as closely, while others point to overworked pharmacists.
Georgia does not limit the number of prescriptions that pharmacists can fill per hour.
Shaw has urged people to research their medications, because even medical experts make mistakes.
"The goal to spread awareness as much as I can," Shaw told the Palm Beach Post. "It is difficult being in the spotlight, but I think it is worth it if it means someone is more educated about the medication that they are taking."