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One woman experienced an extreme eczema flare when she became pregnant—and to make matters worse, she also developed a dangerous infection.

July 10, 2017

People say that pregnancy is supposed to be a happy time. Well, I’m pretty sure those people don't have eczema. For me—a woman with a severe case of the skin condition, which causes itchy, red rashes on the skin—those nine months were the most miserable days of my life.

Up until I got pregnant at age 17, my eczema was manageable. I was diagnosed when I was four years old, and used the same topical steroid for years. Whenever I had a flare, I put on the cream and my skin would calm down. When I was eight, I moved to Tampa, Florida, and, despite the occasional rash, I still wore shorts and tank tops. Besides, the air felt good on my skin. But by the time I entered middle school, things started to get worse. The patches were spreading—to my wrists, the back of my legs, and eventually to my face. Then I got pregnant, and my skin just went crazy.

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The worst months

I was two months pregnant when the left side of my face started to itch uncontrollably. I felt it before I went to bed one night, and by the next morning, my skin was so inflamed that my mom had to take me to the hospital. As the weeks went on, my skin got worse: I scratched the sores on my head so much so that my hair was falling out in patches, and my legs were raw from clawing at the skin.

As my due date neared, my mom took me to the hospital because she suspected that something was seriously wrong with me. Walking was too painful, and my legs were oozing so much that I had to keep them wrapped in bed sheets. When I was wheeled into the hospital on a chair, the doctors looked at me and basically shrugged. They didn’t want to admit me because they didn’t think there wasn’t anything wrong. Luckily, my mom stood her ground, and someone took my blood pressure. That’s when I found out that I had preeclampsia, or very high blood pressure (which can lead to premature birth).

The hospital stay

While monitoring my blood pressure, the doctors took culture swabs of my legs. Two days later, the results came back: MRSA, a serious, sometimes life-threatening infection caused by a type of Staph bacteria. Before I knew it, I was being whisked away to a room at the end of the hall—an isolation room, where they told me I was going to be quarantined.

When my mom arrived back at the hospital, the doctors told her that she’d need to wear a gown and gloves if she wanted to see me. She refused. She said, I lived with her while she had this infection. I’m not talking to my daughter like that.

Two days after that, I was induced. The doctors moved me to a delivery room and gave me an epidural. I was only in labor for about three hours before giving birth: a healthy baby boy who weighed about 6.8 pounds. He’s ten years old now—and thankfully, he doesn't have eczema.

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The aftermath

I was discharged a day and a half later, but I was still in a lot of pain, especially in my legs. Everything hurt. It even hurt to wash my son’s bottle. I eventually had to go to a different hospital to get a prednisone shot. That was the first time in two months that my legs stopped hurting.

It was another three years before I found a good dermatologist. He did everything he could for me, even saw me on days when he had a full schedule. Now, I don’t itch as much, and I’m not in so much pain. My skin is regaining some of its color, and my eyebrows and eyelashes are starting to grow back; in the past, I’d rubbed them off. For the first time in years, I feel as if I’ve finally found help.

 

—Jillian M., 27, from Tampa, Florida, as told to Maria Masters