Ever since she was a young girl, Deena realized that something wasn’t right – that she never felt happy or comfortable in her own skin. She suffered from depression. But in the South Texas, Mexican-American family she grew up with, there was a stigma around mental illness that prevented her and her family from seeking treatment.
In college, Deena met Jay. They got married, had kids. After each birth, Deena suffered really bad post-partum depression. After she miscarried her third child, things fell apart. Deena’s depression was getting worse. On top of it, her marriage to Jay began to unravel. She decided to try getting on medication.
The doctor prescribed her Lamitrogine (also known as Lamictal), an epilepsy drug with a secondary use of treating manic-depressives. A week later, she developed flu-like symptoms, then irritation in her eyes and throat. She didn’t realize it at first, but these symptoms were the beginnings of Stevens-Johnson Syndrome, a life-threatening condition that often happens as the result of an immune reaction to medication.
With Stevens-Johnson, cell death causes the outer layer of the skin to separate from the body and die, including the the epidermis inside your body and internal organs. Deena has to be airlifted to a military hospital, where doctors saved her life by oxygenating her blood outside of her body for almost a month while she was in a medical coma.
Deena survived. But with various medical complications ranging from damaged eyes to a scarred throat, life is full of new challenges that impact her mental health. While she was under, her husband Jay had to make the decision to put her on the machines that saved her life. Deena says that sometimes she wished he had let her die.
Now they have to figure out how to pick up the pieces of their life and marriage, and raise their kids. Nothing about it is easy.