Surviving Stevens-Johnson syndrome after burning from inside out

Surviving Stevens-Johnson syndrome after burning from inside out

Be careful with the medications you put into your body: that is the warning from a Lake Charles man after burning from the inside out, a terrible reaction to a common antibiotic.

31-year-old Wayne Auzenne, Jr. does not need to look at pictures of his long stay in a burn unit to know how far he has come since January.  He can look at his body.  "This is my actual skin tone," he said, pointing to his upper arm.  "This is where it burned, actually here and it goes all down my arm."

Wayne's "war wounds" as he calls them are not the result of surviving a fire.  He had been prescribed a common antibiotic, but within a few days he started feeling like he had the flu.  "I got like a real bad headache that was in the middle of my head.  It lasted two days," he said, "Come that Thursday, I had a fever that wouldn't go away."

Then came the vomiting, skin rash, and skin discoloration.

Three trips to see doctors resulted in more confusion and a misdiagnosis of hand, foot, and mouth disease.

Wayne's wife, Mandy, says when he was finally admitted to the hospital for more testing, he was near death.  "He was dark purple.  It was all the way down to his waist.  His mouth had crusted over," she said.

Inside his mouth, Wayne says he could feel his tongue peeling off.  "By the time I got upstairs, I was like 'can we do something about my tongue, because it's kind of falling off?'  And they were like, 'Uh...yeah,'" said Wayne.

Wayne finally got a diagnosis: Stevens-Johnson syndrome and toxic epidermal necrolysis, a serious disorder of the skin and mucous membranes that is usually a reaction to a medication or infection.  As the body fights to live, blisters form on mucous membranes and the top layer of skin peels away.  "Basically it's burning him from the inside out," said Mandy, "the doctors said, 'There's nothing we can do for him here.  He has to be put into a burn unit.'"

"Why am I burning?" said Wayne.  "I don't feel like I'm burning.  All I felt was like a normal flu."

Wayne spent a couple of weeks in a Lafayette burn unit, on a feeding tube, and undergoing surgical debridements, getting rid of the unhealthy tissue.  "They're just basically peeling the skin off of him and then wrapping him back up with specialized medicine, pads, and gauze and putting him back into the room until it starts to heal," said Mandy.

The risk for infection and organ failure was significant, but Wayne survived.  He hopes sharing his story will raise awareness about this syndrome considered rare.

Wayne says his skin tells his story today - one he would not change.  "I prefer to have it," he said.  "Instead of looking at the pictures of when I was in the hospital bandaged up, I look at these and remind myself you went through it, you survived, be grateful for your life."

Wayne continues to see eye specialists, dermatologists, and gastroenterologists today to monitor his recovery.

Almost any medication can cause Stevens-Johnson syndrome.

You can connect with SJS Louisiana, an organization based out of Scott, raising awareness for Stevens-Johnson syndrome.  The group is hosting a one mile and 5K fun run on October 10 at Scott Park.  Click here for more information.

Mandy Auzenne is organizing a fundraiser with Painting with a Purpose at Painting with a Twist in Lake Charles.  It is set for December 6 from 3:00-:00 P.M. Funds raised will go to SJS Louisiana.

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