WESTMINSTER, Colo., March 15, 2010 — It's been 15 years since Julie McCawley spent 4 weeks fighting for her life, but last October Julie relived that experience while filming with Discovery Health's Mystery Diagnosis.
At 11 months old, Julie was diagnosed with an extremely severe case of chicken pox. Her body was covered in burn-like blisters and her eyes began to swell shut. After 4 days, it became clear that Julie did not have the chicken pox. She was experiencing a severe adverse drug reaction known as Stevens Johnson Syndrome (SJS), the result of taking an anticonvulsant.
Now 16, Julie is no stranger to the sterility of the hospital, having undergone 13 surgeries to counter the lasting effects of SJS. However this trip to the hospital with Mystery Diagnosis was different.
"I wasn't there for medical, I was there to observe," says Julie. "I wasn't sick, I wasn't the baby in the bed. It's a nice change for me."
As a result of the reaction Julie is now blind in her right eye, photophobic and scarred for life, but Julie is lucky. Allergic drug reactions are one of the leading causes of death in the United States.
During Julie's recovery her mother, Jean McCawley, founded the SJS Foundation to provide support and information to patients and families who have experienced this life-threatening reaction.
"I am so grateful to Mystery Diagnosis for helping us spread awareness of the terrible reaction," says Jean. "I hear from families that are fighting for their loved one's life, and so few doctors are familiar with SJS that it's hard to get a diagnosis."
Julie's story will air on March 22 at 10 p.m. EDT on Discovery Health; check local listings.
About Stevens Johnson Syndrome (SJS)
Stevens Johnson Syndrome is a severe adverse reaction to medication. Adverse reactions account for approximately 150,000 deaths in the U.S. alone, making drug reactions the fourth leading cause of death in the United States. For more information about SJS, please visit http://www.sjsupport.org or call the SJS Foundation at (303) 635-1241.
# # #