7-year-old Oregon girl battles rare, dangerous skin disease - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

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7-year-old Oregon girl battles rare, dangerous skin disease

PORTLAND, Ore. - It's a parent's worst nightmare; your child is sick and her condition is 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.

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.

Last month, a small rash developed on the 7-year-old's leg and within a matter of hours, it had spread to her face and 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 the syndrome.

"My wife and I were just astonished. My mother-in-law had to get on the Internet and look it up," said Dave Armstrong, Mackenzie's dad.

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... They said we have to get her to Emanuel, they're the best with skin," said Carrie Armstrong, the girl's mother.

Doctors determined the blisters had also formed on her eyes and if not treated, scar tissue could take her sight.

Using a revolutionary technique, doctors inserted tissue harvested from the placenta of donors 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.

For Mackenzie, it was close call as 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 syndrome, but they may never know for sure.

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