Rare disease could come right from your medicine cabinet

KALAMAZOO, Mich. - A West Michigan family is sharing their story to raise awareness about a rare syndrome many don’t know too much about.

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

Stevens-Johnson syndrome or SJS is an extremely rare disease that is most commonly caused by antibiotics like penicillin or Bactrim. The disease impacts less than 1 percent of the people who use the antibiotics each year.

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

Cassandra just had a baby on June 29, three weeks before she passed.

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

In the next several days, Cassandra went to the ER two different times for flu-like symptoms and a rash.

A few days later, her mother received a disturbing call.

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

Cassandra was rushed to the hospital on July 13.  Doctors diagnosed Cassandra with SJS on July 14.

Her rash spread quickly and they started treating her as a burn patient.  Her skin was blistering and falling off. Essentially the tissue in her body was breaking down.

During her final hours, doctors performed CPR on her three separate times.

Doctors say once the disease starts, it is treatable, but not always curable.  Pharmacy doctors say SJS has little awareness because it is so rare.

For more on the story, visit WXMI.