You Be the Doctor: What Caused This Life-Threatening Rash?

"She couldn't swallow," Gallagher said. "She had canker sores throughout her mouth and on her tongue on down into her throat. So, I took her temperature. It was 104.4. I was really scared."

Finally, An Answer

Meyer sent Kaplan to the hospital where doctors noticed that the lesions on her skin were becoming more pronounced.

"They just seemed to be breaking out from head to toe," Kaplan said.

But then Meyer found something in a medical journal-- a rare condition sparked by a drug reaction.

"He diagnosed me as having something called Stevens-Johnson Syndrome, which I had never heard of before," Kaplan said.

Meyer said the condition is relatively rare and is thought to be an immune-related disorder. Meyer blamed the sulfa-based antibiotic-- Stevens-Johnson Syndrome would mean Kaplan could never again take sulfa drugs.

To counter-act the immune reaction from the antibiotic she took weeks earlier, Kaplan would need to take high doses of prednisone

"I don't know if I was out of the woods or I was just entering the woods when I got that diagnosis," she said.

If she really was suffering from Stevens-Johnson Syndrome, she would start shedding skin.

"Every morning they would come in to take my blood…and they would wipe my arm," she said. "And the skin was just coming off with the cotton ball. It was just skin shedding everywhere."

Meyer likened it to the skin being sloughed off much like a bad burn.

"Debbie's lips and mouth had lost skin. They were oozing," Meyer said. "They looked black. She had problems with her vision."

Fighting For Her Life

If she got worse, he said, Kaplan would have had to be transferred to the burn unit for treatment.

Gallagher remembered her daughter fighting for her life with an enlarged liver and kidneys that were shutting down.

All they could do was wait and hope the drugs would start working.

And after at least 48 hours, Meyer said, they did and Kaplan's condition began to improve.

"After six days they released me from the hospital. My fever was gone. The skin was starting to clear up," she said. "I didn't know if the scars would go away … it took years before I realized that I really was going to be okay."

Now that Kaplan has recovered, "she's the person that she always was—kind sweet healthful, thoughtful," Gallagher said. "She's just a great person. Even if I do say so myself."

"I didn't realize how lucky I was then," Kaplan said, "but I know now how lucky I was."

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