Pharmaceutical

Boy suffering with SJS/TEN receives free exam from hospital

When he was not quite 2 years old, James Lumasag was diagnosed with a rare but life threatening skin condition after receiving a round of antibiotics to treat a cough and fever. The toddler fought for his life in the intensive care unit of a hospital, where he received 22 bags of plasma as his skin peeled away from his body. “His whole body, except his head, looked totally burnt,” his mother Merlyn said. “James suffered too much.”

Blisters also formed on his eyes, causing his eyelids to fuse closed. Ophthalmologists tried to pry his eyes open but it wasn’t until 17 days later that James was able to open his eyes. The damage had been done. His left eye was so badly scarred that even now he can’t bear to go without sunglasses, even indoors. And he cannot make his own tears, which exacerbates his condition.

James’ condition, toxic epidermal necrolysis, TEN, is the most severe form of Stevens Johnson Syndrome, SJS, a severe adverse reaction to medication. Many medications have been linked to SJS and TEN, most often ibuprofen, anti-seizure medication and antibiotics. Many medications have warnings listed in the fine print of the packaging, but those warnings often go unnoticed and can even be misdiagnosed by doctors. Early diagnosis and treatment can be key to survival.

Now 7 years old, James’ medical costs and treatments are mounting and his parents worry how they will provide for him in the months and years to come. Doctors say their son needs eye surgery to prevent his lashes from growing inward and irritating his eye further. Both James’ parents work at a hospital but their health insurance plan no longer covers the boy’s treatment. Now they have to rely on the kindness of strangers to get their son the treatment he needs. Luckily, just last week, the Dubai branch of the Moorfields, the UK’s top eye hospital, offered to examine James free of charge.

“This nasty condition is essentially untreatable,” said Dr. Chris Canning, the chief executive and medical director at the hospital. “There is no miracle cure anywhere in the world but there are things that can be done to make life easier for James.”

James’ mother is thankful but she still feels helpless. “If I could only give my tears to my child, I would be happy,” she said.

Source: The National