Jonathan Laird, a 38-year-old man from Indiana, is urging other people going through the same ultra-rare (and horrific) medical nightmare that he is to "be brave," according to The New York Post. Did we mention that Laird's condition forced surgeons to sew his eyes shut and cover his body in pigskin to prevent him from burning from the inside out? No? Well, let us do that now.
Laird's ordeal started three years ago after contracting conjunctivitis and flaking skin. Things worsened when he started getting blisters in his mouth and throat, and at that point the worsening of his symptoms convinced him to drive straight to the hospital to figure out just what exactly was going on.
“My eyes started to feel like they had little pieces of glass in them, it was very uncomfortable and I was scared to touch them or rub them because it literally felt like I was going to cut my eyes,” he said to the Mirror.co.uk. “I thought, ‘Is this Stevens-Johnson Syndrome?’ I can’t imagine I would actually get this but is this what this is?”
As it turns out, he had correctly diagnosed himself. Furthermore, doctors ordered him to stop taking Lamotrigine, which had been prescribed to him to treat his depression. The Metro adds that Laird's symptoms started within a month of taking the anti-depressant.
After that hospital visit Laird's health problems continued to worsen, as he developed as many as 50 sores in his mouth, plus there was a rash growing over his back and chest. A trip back to the hospital led to him being sent to the Harbour View Medical Center in Seattle.
“When you have Stevens-Johnson Syndrome (SJS) you basically burn from the inside out,” Laird said to the Mirror. “It starts as a rash and then the rash erupts into blisters.”
The Cleveland Clinic says that patients afflicted with Stevens-Johnson Syndrome are usually sent to a burn unit to undergo treatment. Many cases are caused by allergic reactions to medications, but it can also come from infection or vaccinations. The clinic further states that roughly 10 percent of those who contract the syndrome die, and that survivors can have further health problems that include: pneumonia, sepsis, shock or multiple organ failure.
As for Laird, his case led to him being covered in wraps. He was also unable to move.
"They stitched my eyes shut to protect my vision, they bound my hands together so I couldn’t rip the tube out that was down my throat. ‘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. They also put pig skin all over me to prevent infection. They were afraid I was going to get pneumonia at one point, so they had to make sure that everybody who came to see me had gloves on and gowns.’"
After almost two weeks in the ICU he still had several weeks more to go before he was able to eat, talk, or see. Communication with his parents was done with a pen and paper.
“I said something like, ‘Am I going to die?’ because I didn’t know and that was really hard for them to read,” he said. “I just looked horrible, I looked like a plane crash.”
Laird's release from the hospital came last summer, and his recovery continues while he writes a blog about his condition. He stated his aim for the blog is to show others with the rare condition that they're not alone. "Be brave and you’ll get through this, and the person you’re going to be on the other side of this is a much stronger person," he wrote.