A MUM has told how she was convinced that she had contracted leprosy after waking up one day with cold symptoms, blood pouring from her eyes and mouth, and large chunks of her flesh falling off.
Surely she was dying, Jo Daniels, 42, was diagnosed with a condition that genetic experts say affect one-in-a-million.
It all started back in February, when she began to cough and assumed she had a cold one.
Over the next five days, however, she began to develop large ulcers in her mouth and painful wrists around her eyes.
Her GP put her symptoms down to wet and gave her some antibiotics before asking her to come back for tests.
You said: "I knew it was not wet, though.
"At that stage, my symptoms were so bad that I had to swallow clots of blood that were up in my nose and I was constantly spitting blood. I was scarcely able to see, because my eyes were blushing. I was terrified.
"I was convinced I was going to die. The symptoms were horrific and unlike anything I had ever heard of before.
"It was like severe burns across the whole of your mouth, nose and eyes and I was in constant pain, unable to eat or drink anything apart from small amounts of water.
"At its worst, parts of my face began to fall away and I remember one day finding a big bit of something in my mouth – which I then realized was a bit of the inside of my cheek that had come off. It was as though I had leprosy. "
After having tested blood tests at Morriston Hospital, Swansea, doctors confirmed that she was actually suffering from Stevens-Johnson syndrome, a potentially life-threatening condition that affects the skin, mucous membrane, genitals and eyes.
It was the first case they had dealing with, and they believed that Jo's condition was caused by an infection that her immune system reacted violently towards.
They prescribed more antibiotics and antiviral drugs.
But your symptoms continued to get worse before they got better.
"I could not leave the house or do anything at all because I could not see," said Jo, who was looking at her illness by her mother, Diane.
"I tried eating soup and jelly, but it was just too painful for anything to touch the ulcers all along my mouth and throat – so I did not eat anything for that whole time, except for water."
Once her sores started to heal, you had to deal with big chunks of dry skin falling off her lipstick and mouth, and she began to worry that she'd choke on her own flesh as the inside of her mouth started to peel.
After three long weeks, she could finally see and eat again.
But the experience left her traumatised.
"My vision is now very bad because of the sores that were in my eyes," she said.
"But, more than anything, I feel completely lost my confidence and my looks. Anyone who has not seen me since before it happened to themselves, 'What happened to her?' Because it has transformed the way I look.
"Now I have bad teeth because it made my gums, my eyes are almost always swollen and I can not put make-up on, because I can not see well enough.
"I used to be a very sociable person, but I was made agoraphobic – meaning I do not want to leave the house – by this terrible illness."
And she is also afraid that she will be struck by the condition for a second time.
"It's so rare that there's so little information available about it," she said.
"Even medical professionals could not really tell me much about it at all and I feel like I can not sleep well until someone can give me some answers and let me know that this will never happen to me again."
But she's determined to get her life back.
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"The illness has robbed me of this whole year and could take more than that," she said.
"But I have to stay determined to beat it.
"It's been like going to hell – but I have to believe that I'll get out the other end."
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