A father-of-two was left looking like a real-life ‘zombie’ and nearly died after reacting to antibiotics to treat a simple infection.
Josh Dennis, 38, from Holly in Colorado, suffered burns on more than 90 percent of his body, as well as being left temporarily blind and unable to move after developing both Stevens-Johnson Syndrome (SJS) and Toxic Epidermal Necrolysis (TEN).
The conditions were brought on as a result of a reaction to a two-weeks worth of antibiotics Mr. Dennis was prescribed to cure a staph infection in his jaw.
After being delusional and close to death, Mr. Dennis was released from the hospital last month and is gradually learning how to walk, eat and carry out everyday tasks again.
He credits his wife Stacie, 34, for giving him the love and support he needed to fight for his life.
Mr. Dennis speaking out to raise awareness of the symptoms of SJS and TEN, as well as to warn people of the potential dangers of antibiotics.
‘I had no idea what was coming’
Towards the end of Mr. Dennis’ antibiotic course, he started to experience itching.
He said: ‘The first thing that started to bug me was my fingernails. They felt like they were all irritable from being cut too short and there was an itching under my nails.
‘The next day, the bottom of my feet started with the severe itching. Then my palms with an uncontrollable itch.
‘I woke up in the middle of the night to my feet just burning and itching like I never felt before. I could barely walk on them.’
When Mr. Dennis went to have a shower, he discovered his body was covered in hives.
He said: ‘I don’t get sick very often. It had been years since I had seen a doctor for antibiotics before this. I had no idea what was coming.
‘All the while my wife was trying to control my fever. She would get it to come down and an hour later it was spiking again.
‘I finally decided I wanted a shower to help get a little heat off. I got up to leave the shower and fell from it when the skin on the bottom of my feet separated.
‘We had no idea how bad and how fast my feet were blistering.’
‘I had blisters all over my body’
After going to the doctor and being diagnosed with Kawasaki’s disease, Mr. Dennis’ condition worsened as his eye turned purple, his skin blistered and other areas of his body became too sensitive to touch.
He said: ‘My dad and little brother had to come to our house and carry me from my bed to the truck. All of that was traumatic in itself.
‘The doctor that was on staff that morning was a godsend.
‘When I got to him I was getting a lot of purpling around my eyes and blistering on my scrotum. My hands and feet were in such pain I wouldn’t let anyone touch them.
‘He made the decision to call for an ambulance and was sending me to a university hospital in Denver, Colorado, as soon as possible.
‘When I got there, I could barely move. I had blisters starting all over my body. I was diagnosed [with] TENS within 24 hours.’
The union heavy equipment operator says he looked like a zombie due to the severe damage caused to his skin.
‘The worst part was the genitals’
Four days before Christmas, Mr. Dennis had an operation to save his sight.
Surgeons attached membranes made from placenta between his eyelids and eyeballs to protect his cornea.
Mr. Dennis said: Perhaps the worst part that I haven’t talked about was the genitals.
‘My scrotum looked like a brain oozing pus. The blistering and pain I had in this area were excruciating. I almost blocked it out completely. It took weeks to heal.
‘My mouth was the second painful part. The new skin. I couldn’t eat anything except alfredo noodles or eggs for a while.’
Mr. Dennis’ skin slowly started to heal and in the new year, he was told he could go home after proving he could walk and eat normal food.
‘Not in a million years did I think this could happen’
Speaking of his rehabilitation, Mr. Dennis said: ‘When we got to leave I was so happy but that’s when the real work started. We had to make major lifestyle changes.
‘I couldn’t shower like I used too. I couldn’t eat the same stuff as the rest of the family. I couldn’t see very well. I couldn’t drive for six weeks or so. My wife had her work cut out for her.
‘Here we are eight weeks later and it’s still a struggle, but my vision is almost back to normal, I’m off a lot of the prescriptions, and I can eat anything again.’
Speaking of his traumatic experience, Mr. Dennis said: ‘It’s still so strange knowing what happened I don’t feel as lucky as I really am.
‘I’m doing so much better than a lot of the stories I’ve read, my lifestyle and physical activity with work and such had a lot to do with all this.
‘Not in a million years did I think this could happen from antibiotics. It’s crazy, no warning, and the first time I had been to a doctor in five years.
‘I see warnings on labels now. It’s amazing how many products I’ll never use again just because of the warning labels.
‘I know my body better and am more aware of what my family is putting in theirs. It scares me to think my kids are at risk. I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy.’
‘I could talk to my wife and stay grounded’
Mr. Dennis also believes his wife’s presence during his recovery was critical to him making it through, saying: ‘Most people that die from this are alone through it all, my wife took care of me the whole way.
‘She told doctors what they needed to know to save my life, she kept me on this side when the drugs and trauma were taking me away.
‘I could hear her voice above all else, I had a lot of days that seemed like dreams with all the hallucinations, I could talk to my wife and stay grounded.
‘My wife’s dad came to visit me when I looked like a zombie. He had to leave because of how I looked.
He said: ‘I didn’t understand at first, it hurt my feelings. But since then I’ve seen the pictures and I know why he couldn’t see me.
‘Anyone that visited wasn’t comfortable. They thought my wife was cold for not reacting like them, but she would tell them “I still see my husband”.
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