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Warned she would never get pregnant after being burned alive by a catastrophic reaction to epilepsy medication, a young woman has revealed her joy with just weeks away from the birth of her miracle baby.
Danika Heron’s nightmare began when she suddenly developed a mysterious rash just a few days before her 19th birthday in 2014 lead to a diagnosis of Stevens-Johnson syndrome (SJS), a severe reaction to medication or an infection that affects the skin, mucous membranes, genitals, and eyes.
Teetering on the brink of death, Heron’s skin blistered and fell, as her parents, Carmen Heron, 48, and Scott Heron, 47, looked on in horror, powerless to help their loved one girl.
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After three weeks in the hospital, Heron, now 24, of New South Wales, Australia, to slowly rally, but the doctors warned that, as a result of the organ damage and internal scars SJS had caused, she was probably barren – leaving the young woman little choice but to accept, she would never be a mother.
Danika Heron’s reaction began with a rash, who was allegedly confused with chickenpox or herpes before a doctor saw the severity of her condition.
(PA Real Life)
Then, in December 2018, against all odds, to her delight Heron discovered that she was pregnant with a boy, her mother has called a “miracle.”
“We call Danika, our warrior, and her little boy is our miracle,” Carmen Heron, who speaks on behalf of her daughter, who is now legally deaf because of SJS, it said. “I get emotional even thinking about it. I’m just so happy for her. She is still dealing with the aftermath of SJS now, and I do worry and think, ‘Is this the life that she is going to give?’ But now, it’s not – then she has a new life as a mother.”
For Heron, a student chef at a top Sydney restaurant when she got sick, but not able to work, life changed forever in the beginning of 2014, when she was diagnosed with epilepsy.
Immediately she was placed on the two drugs that are often prescribed to help manage seizures – levetiracetam, better known as Keppra, lamotrigine, sold under the brand name Lamictal.
It took three weeks in the hospital before her condition began to improve, although she still deals with a permanent hearing loss and PTSD from the ordeal.
(PA Real Life)
While serious side effects are very rare, both drugs carry the risk of triggering a severe cutaneous reactions such as sjs – according to The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE).
On the first, the Heron seemed to be responding well to the medication, to a pinprick-like rash appeared in May.
“I knew immediately that it was an allergic reaction, and so I took her to the doctor and asked them to change the medication she was on,” Cameron Heron said. “They did, but it was already too late – the medication that was the cause of the reaction was in her system.”
The next few days, Heron’s rash spread, her lips swelled and her eyes appeared red and sore.
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Nar, Carmen Heron took her to the doctor a few times but, if SJS is so rare, it was just thought that they are suffering from something more common, such as chickenpox or herpes simplex virus.
But fortunately, by complete chance, she was eventually seen by a doctor who knew a lot about the condition and saw it immediately, officially diagnosing her with a severe form of SJS known as toxic epidermal necrolysis (TEN).
She is now in the weeks before the birth of a baby boy, who doctors warned might not be due to the amount of the scars left behind by SJS.
(PA Real Life)
Adding that doctors have since confirmed that the epilepsy medication led to the negative reaction, Carmen Heron said: “I had never heard of SJS before, but I remember googling and burst into tears. From there, Danika was admitted to the burns unit at Concord Hospital in Sydney.”
“Then she was screaming from the pain. She was in so much pain, she was drifting in and out of consciousness,” she said. “It was so traumatic. She doesn’t remember much, which, in a way, I’m grateful for that because it was so annoying for her.”
As medics sprang into action, working around the clock to save Heron, her mother was terrified she would not make it.
The day after she was admitted to the hospital, it seemed as if her worst fears would be realized when Heron suddenly stopped breathing.
“Her throat was swollen so much that she couldn’t breathe,” Cameron Heron said. “It was horrible to watch. She was throwing up all this blood, and the skin. I really thought she was going to die.”
While doctors managed to stabilize Heron, the state continued to ravage her body, making the skin on her face, chest, back and arms are so burned that it fell away.
Her lips also swelled to the point where they burst and her mouth was covered with painful ulcers.
“Doctors told us it was one of the worst cases they had ever seen,” Carmen Heron said. “Danika was barely conscious most of the time, and had this button to press to relieve the pain when it became too much. Her bodies nothing, and they had so many internal scars. She was burned from the inside to the outside. Her entire body was connected, and when the bandages were removed, her skin came away too.”
Finally, after three weeks, Heron slowly started the rally and was fired six days later.
But her journey was far from over, as she was left with side-effects such as the loss of the hair and the nails.
Her skin is still healing to this day and she also needs hearing aids as well as the inside of her ears are so drawn.
In addition to the physical consequences, she is also combating the emotional legacy of SJS, have suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder.
“We are still working with SJS – it doesn’t stop when we’re out of the hospital,” Carmen Heron said. “Danika days where she feels incredibly low and is struggling with flashbacks in the hospital. Fortunately, as she feels that they call us. We have discovered that, as a family, it is good to talk in place of the bottle of all, how difficult those memories might be.”
Another side effect of Heron’s ordeal was the warning by doctors that, due to the amount of the internal scars she had sustained, it was unlikely that she would ever think of.
According to the U.S. Library of National Medicine, SJS and TEN are often the cause of the tissue around the mucous membranes – which line the various cavities in the body such as the eyes, ears, mouth, vagina, urethra, as well as with regard to the bodies – to die.
As a result, women can experience vaginal lesions that lead to painful sexual intercourse, difficulty conceiving, and even infertility.
“The doctors said they could refer her to a gynaecologist to run some tests, but they never went – I don’t think they want to hear the answers,” Carmen Heron said.
But, in December 2018, the Heron family received some news, she thought she would never hear.
“Danika called me crying. I immediately panic and said: ‘What’s wrong?'” Cameron Heron said. “She replied,” I’m pregnant.’ It was so emotional, none of us could believe it. She is an incredible mother. I am so happy for her and her partner, Jordan, with whom she had three years.”
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“She is classified as a high-risk pregnancy, and has to contend with pain in the hip, but we had a scan recently and her little boy, who is due in July, looks healthy and perfect,” she said.
Now, if Heron prepares to welcome her miracle boy into the world in a matter of weeks, she and her mother are determined to raise awareness of SJS and TEN.
“It is terrible how many people are affected by this worldwide. If sharing our story helps just one person, I will continue to go,” Cameron Heron said. “All we want is to be aware. I would urge people to be aware of their medication and to push for testing as soon as they notice a rash. Don’t be sent home and told that it is nothing. I am grateful for every day that we printed for Danika to be checked over and over again. If we hadn’t they wouldn’t be here.”