Jonathan Laird knew that life could be better. Things seemed… dulled… all the time. His doctor suggested he meet with a psychiatrist who then prescribed him with an antidepressant. The psychiatrist diagnosed him with bipolar disorder and told him to try lamotrigine tablets. He first started popping those pills back in April 2016 but quickly learned that he was having a horrible – and extremely rare – allergic reaction to the drug.
Laird, from Greenfield, Indiana, started to “burn from the inside” when he began his regimen of the antidepressant. As a result, doctors had to stitch his eyes shut and cover his face with pigskin because the rare reaction caused his face to “peel off.”
The symptoms did not happen immediately. Laird took the drugs for about a month, and that’s when he started experiencing flu-like symptoms. He complained that his eyes felt sore and that it felt as though “glass was piercing them.”
As you can imagine, these side effects were hard to deal with. The 38-year-old didn’t know what was wrong with him, and since he’d been on the pills for a month, he didn’t think to blame the medication immediately.
However, the side effects rapidly got worse. He started developing raw, red sores inside his mouth and along his lips. Then they developed in his throat and his entire body.
At this point, Laird was rushed to the hospital. He was admitted to the intensive care unit and diagnosed with Stevens-Johnson syndrome (SJS). This is a rare condition when the immune system attacks healthy skin, mucous, genitals, and eyes. Imagine your body was trying to kill those very things on your body and how much that would hurt.
Then Laird’s skin started falling off. His face was rotting and flaking. The exposed flesh beneath was vulnerable to infection. That’s when the Indiana doctors wrapped his face in pigskin to help keep the open wound sterile before they could go a proper skin graft.
Recalling the nightmare, Laird said: “When you have Stevens-Johnson Syndrome, you basically burn from the inside out. It starts as a rash and then the rash erupts into blisters. They stitched my eyes shut to protect my vision (and) they bound my hands together so I couldn’t rip the tube out that was down my throat.”
Not only had Laird been dealing with the debilitating symptoms of bipolar disorder, he now had these terrible side effects of the medication to contend with.
Doctors resorted to the pigskin to help protect his skin. It was temporarily grafted on to protect against bacteria and viruses from the outside environment. The lab-processed and sterilized skin is put in place until the host is able to provide a skin graft. Because of SJS, Laird wasn’t ready for that.
“I don’t remember much. I fell in and out of consciousness,” he said. “I felt like I was dreaming all the time. I don’t think I really knew that my eyes were stitched shut. I had to communicate with my parents with a pen and paper because I couldn’t talk, so they would say something, and I would write.”
Laird was released from the hospital on June 1 and had been recovering.
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