A Georgia woman is speaking out after a rare allergic reaction to an anti-seizure drug damaged her eyesight and caused nearly 90 percent of her skin to peel off.
WAGA News reports 24-year-old Khaliah Shaw is still recovering from the January 2014 ordeal that forced her out of graduate school.
In December 2013, Shaw was seeking her master’s degree in health promotion at Georgia College and State University when she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Her doctor prescribed three drugs, including Lamotrigine, a generic version of the anti-seizure drug Lamictal.
According to Shaw’s own blog, her doctor upped her Lamotrigine dosage in January and shortly after taking the higher dose, Shaw began to feel ill.
She went to a local emergency room with a fever, fatigue and blisters inside her mouth. She was diagnosed with having the flu and sent home.
Two days later she woke up in terrible plain, covered in blisters.
She returned to the emergency room.
"By the time I left the house, my skin was on fire. I was crawling out of my house, I couldn't walk. It got really bad really fast,” Shaw told WAGA.
Her local hospital, in Oconee County, rushed her by ambulance to Macon’s Medical Center of Central Georgia. Once there, a dermatologist diagnosed her with Stevens Johnson Syndrome, a rare reaction to the Lamotrigine.
“They put me into a medically-induced coma, because they knew it was going to be really painful,” Shaw said.
Five weeks later she woke up in the burn unit of Atlanta’s Grady Hospital.
Dr. Walter Ingram, a burn specialist there, said the reaction essentially causes the body’s immune system to attack and kill the top layer of skin, the epidermis. He said he wasn’t surprised by the emergency room’s original diagnosis of the flu.
"It starts out as sore throat. Mouth gets inflamed, eyes get inflamed,” Ingram explained.
From there Stevens Johnson Syndrome turns the skin into a huge open wound.
On her blog, Shaw said that doctors estimated she lost 85 to 90 percent of her skin. But her suffering didn’t end there.
"I woke up from the coma essentially almost blind,” she told WAGA. “It was a shock to see that, especially when I'd went to sleep, all my hair had come off. I didn't have any fingernails.”
Then the former grad student suffered seizures as her body was weaned off the sedatives that kept her in a coma.
Now, over a year later, Shaw is still adjusting. She has put grad school on hold and lives with her mom.
Her skin continues to heal, her hair is starting to grow back, and most of her eyesight has returned, but she is forced to wear sunglasses and can’t drive when it is either too bright or too dark.
According to the Daily Mail, she is coping with her recovery through maintaining her blog.
But she is still left with the difficult decision of what medications to take to help manage her bipolar disorder. She says she is terrified of having another reaction.
“There are still things I avoid to this day because it reminds me of that time,” she wrote in one blog post, according to the Daily Mail. “And no amount of discomfort is worth getting SJS again. NONE.”
Photo Credit: Khaliah’s Journey