Chaya Mushka Hendrie is a young woman from a Chabad family whose life recently took a devastating, life-altering turn as a toxic reaction to a prescription medication caused severe life-threatening burns over 90% of her body, including her face, eyes, mouth, throat and other internal tissues.
While she is lucky to have survived, Chaya is now in a long, difficult recovery from both physical and emotional trauma. Her body is weak and exhausted, her immune system is fragile, her skin has to be protected to avoid tearing, and her tear ducts are sealed shut so that she must use eye drops continuously in order to avoid pain and additional damage to her eyes. Her toenails and fingernails have all fallen off and ordinary sunlight is a danger to her. And in addition, she is in a state of extreme emotional trauma and vulnerability.
Chaya’s ordeal began when she was prescribed medication before leaving on a road trip to visit a friend who lived a few states away. She was not aware that the medicine had a rare side effect known as TEN (Toxic Epidermal Necrolysis) a far more severe version of Stevens-Johnson Syndrome. It is rare for people to survive TEN this severe.
Within a short time Chaya began to get body aches and a sore throat. Her doctor assumed that she had a mild flu and sent her on her way.
Within the first day of driving, her skin began to develop a burning rash. Then the bottoms of her feet blistered, making it excruciating for her to stand, especially challenging as she was driving alone. The first day she stopped at an emergency room, but they sent her on her way with a diagnosis of anxiety and dehydration. The second ER also dismissed her after giving her fluids. She returned to that ER a second time, and her sister, a paramedic in Israel, tried to convince the ER staff that something serious was wrong, but they refused to listen and sent Chaya on her way.
A short time later she became delirious and passed out in her car. The police who found her then took her to another facility, where they accused her of having Covid and attempted to lock her up. Eventually she managed to leave against medical advice. By the time she arrived at her friend’s house she had to crawl, and her skin was sloughing off as she did.
Finally an ambulance was called and she was taken to another ER in Kansas City, where, as she was being treated for bad sunburn, a doctor saw her and said “This girl is dying, transport her to the burn unit immediately!” By the time Chaya arrived at the burn unit that helped to miraculously save her life, over 90% of her body was burned.
With heartfelt thanks to G-d and the many hundreds of people who are davening for her, she survived and has been discharged.
However, she still has much recovery to do.