Rare disease claims daughter’s life after she took medicine for bug bite | RedCowHills
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KALAMAZOO, Mich. — A West Michigan family is sharing their story to raise awareness about a rare syndrome many don’t know too much about. They didn’t either when it blindsided their family.

They shared that story with FOX31 Denver sister station WXMI.

A loved one was suffering from what they thought was flu-like symptoms from a bug bite, but it sadly turned out to be much worse.

The disease is called “Stevens Johnson Syndrome” or SJS. It’s an extremely rare disease that is most commonly caused by antibiotics like penicillin or Bactrim. It impacts less than 1 percent of the people who use them each year.

The family of 24-year-old Cassandra Campbell says she got the disease from some medicine she was taking for a bug bite, which spread quickly and took over her body and eventually took her life.

“It was tough,” said Cindy Shoemaker, Campbell’s mother. “It was the biggest fear I ever had — losing one of my children.”

Campbell just had a baby on June 29, but only three weeks later she was gone from SJS, and it took days to diagnose.

“She had been bitten by a bug, we assumed,” Shoemaker said. “She was nursing at the time, so we got antibiotics, and they put her on two different ones.”

After that, Campbell went to the ER two different times in the next several days for flu-like symptoms and a rash. A few days later, her mom got a disturbing call.

“I got a call from her boyfriend saying she couldn’t see,” Shoemaker said. “Her eyes were all matted shut, and she couldn’t walk on her feet.”

Campbell was rushed to the hospital on July 13, and was diagnosed with SJS a day later.

Her rash got exceedingly worse. They admitted her into the Bronson Burn and Wound Center. Blisters covered her body, and even after they were scrubbed off, and wrapped it would come back.

“They actually didn’t know at first what was causing it, and they called doctors around the world,” Shoemaker said.

Campbell’s skin was essentially blistering, and falling off of her body. Doctors say once the disease starts, it’s treatable but not always curable.

Even though the disease has been documented in literature for years, they are unsure what the singular ingredient in the medications is causing it. Essentially the tissue in Campbell’s body was breaking down. In her final hours, doctors performed CPR on her three separate times.

“Then the doctors came up to me, and they just told me they were sorry and they couldn’t save her,” Shoemaker said.

All Campbell’s parents could think at that moment was that they wish they would have known that what they thought was just a rash was capable of taking daughter away from this earth.

Pharmacy doctors say the disease has little awareness because it’s so rare. The disease can affect everyone differently. It depends on genetics and what medication you are taking and for how long. It’s a case-by-case basis.