Young Child Battling Rare Disease

POSTED: Tuesday, November 10, 2009 - 11:20am

UPDATED: Thursday, June 3, 2010 - 10:58pm

It's a parent's worst nightmare. Your child's sick, her condition deteriorating.
A rare and potentially fatal condition has taken over threatening her sight and life. That’s what happened to 7-year-old Mackenzie Armstrong.

The young Oregon girl has what the medical community calls Stevens- Johnson syndrome. It affects two to seven people per million annually in the United States, even fewer children. What starts with a simple fever, rash, and flu like symptoms rapidly progresses into to blisters all over the body including the surface of the eyes.

Seven year old Armstrong has waged a war few her age have ever fought. Last month a small rash developed on her leg and with a matter of hours spread to her face and her chest. As quickly as the rash emerged it turned into large dangerous blisters. Mackenzie was rushed to the Doernbecher Children's Hospital in Portland where doctors diagnosed her with Stevens-Johnson Syndrome.

"My wife and I were just astonished. My mother and law had to get on the Internet and look it up,” said Mackenzie’s dad Dave Armstrong. Identified in 1922, the syndrome causes the body's skin and mucous membranes to swell typically resulting from an adverse reaction to a drug. Mackenzie's condition was so severe it was classified as toxic epidermal necrolysis and she was transferred to the Oregon Burn Center.

"The doctors came in and said it had covered more than 30 percent of her body so it was ten. They said we have to get her to Emanuel, they're the best with skin,” said mom Carrie Armstrong. Doctors determined the blisters had also formed on her eyes if not treated scar tissue could take her sight. Using a revolutionary technique doctors inserted tissue harvested from the placenta of donor mothers over Mackenzie’s eyes. "It acts like a protective layer almost like a band-aid onto the raw surfaces of the eye so that the eye can heal without scarring together,” said eye specialist Neda Shamie.

The treatments worked. Mackenzie's skin healed and her sight is improving daily.
She'll go home a seven year old survivor back from the brink. It really was close for Mackenzie at one point blisters had formed in her throat and she was placed in a medically induced coma and on a breathing machine.

Her parents are trying to identify the cause of the SJS attack but the
Admit, may never know for sure.