SJS Foundation founder wins Extreme Makeover contest
Jean McCawley is a most deserving recipient of ABC 7’s Extreme Makeover: American Dream contest. The Westminster, Colorado, woman has been through a lot in the past several years, but she has kept her focus on helping others.
In 1996, McCawley’s then-11-month-old daughter Julie had a severe adverse reaction to seizure medication. Called Stevens Johnson Syndrome, or SJS, the condition is rare but life threatening. SJS presents with a rash on the skin that blisters over and peels away. Blisters also can form on mucus membranes such as the eyes and mouth, leading to dehydration, infection or vision problems. It caused McCawley’s young daughter to go blind.
McCawley had never heard of SJS but soon learned how more than 200 medications have been linked to SJS, such as anti-seizure medicines, ibuprofen and antibiotics. She set out to raise awareness of the condition so that other people wouldn’t suffer the way she and her daughter did.
In 1996, the Stevens Johnson Syndrome Foundation was launched. It serves as a community forum for those who have been touched by SJS and provides information on treatments and research to help those who suffer long-term side effects of SJS.
As the recipient of ABC 7’s Extreme Makeover contest, McCawley receives $5,000 and her foundation receives $5,000. McCawley says she will use the foundation money to print and distribute more fact sheets about SJS to hospitals throughout the country.
The money she receives personally has already been spent, she says. She used it to purchase a new insulin pump for her youngest daughter, Kerry, who has Brittle Type I diabetes and Celiac’s disease. It will also cover the family’s mounting medical expenses. Julie had three eye surgeries last year alone and McCawley’s husband suffers from rheumatoid arthritis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.