Meet Lawson Corkern

Barry Corkern says they likely would not have remembered the skin infection his son got at camp if things hadn’t escalated. It was a pretty common situation. Until it wasn’t. 

In July 2015, 14-year-old Lawson was given an oral antibiotic for an infected cut. A few days later, he told his parents he wasn’t feeling well. He developed a fever and cough and was treated by his pediatrician with yet another antibiotic.  Soon after, he awoke to blisters on his lips, in his mouth and throat and had great difficulty swallowing. 

Lawson was taken to the ACH Emergency Department and admitted– with the exact symptoms that had him previously hospitalized there for an extended time in October, 2014.  In 2014 it was thought his illness was a one-time rare immune reaction.

Yet this time, he was worse. Eventually his body was covered in lesions. The pain was excruciating. Within two days Lawson was in kidney failure, on oxygen, an nasogastric tube, unable to speak or walk.

“It was such an agonizing time,” Barry said. “No one knew what was wrong, but we knew we I might lose our son.”

It was a dermatologist who eventually took a biopsy and diagnosed Lawson with Stevens-Johnson Syndrome. SJS is a rare, life-threatening disorder of your skin and mucous membranes usually triggered by a reaction to a medication or by an infection.  In Lawson’s case – it was determined his SJS was triggered by both mycoplasma pneumonia and by an allergic reaction to the antibiotics he was being given. It was then determined that he had indeed had SJS in October 2014 as well.  Because Lawson’s allergy to penicillin drugs was unknown to his parents and his reaction was slightly delayed, it wasn’t immediately obvious what was happening. 

“Even when things were so dark, I was encouraged,” said Barry. “I have never seen an organization as large as Arkansas Children’s where EVERYONE was so focused and channeled on one thing: getting my son well. From the guy pushing the wheelchair to the head of department, they were professional. They gave me confidence.”

“Sure, we talked about maybe going to another hospital,” Barry  remembered. “But then we started talking to the heads of departments and you realize that there are hundreds of doctors who want to be here every year. They select one or two of the best. For Arkansas to be able to have this extraordinary asset, I’m not sure people grasp or understand what’s sitting in the middle of Little Rock.”

Once Lawson had the proper diagnosis, the staff was able to treat him effectively. He walked out of the hospital two weeks later. He started the first football game of the season a few weeks after that. 

Today, as a 15-year-old sophomore, Lawson remains humbled by and grateful for the team who helped him survive SJS twice. Last Christmas, he asked his mom to help him take a basket of baked goods for the nursing pod where he stayed. 

“He wants to share his story to share hope and courage for any teenager going through pain,” said Barry. “His faith was deepened by the experience. He’s anxious to share what happened, in case it might help anyone else.”

Lawson will always wear a medical alert bracelet because of his allergy. He has to be particularly careful about infection at the chance it could re-trigger SJS.  On the whole, his life is mostly typical of other teens. 

“We are so overwhelmingly grateful for Arkansas Children’s Hospital,” said Jan. With God’s healing hand working through and guiding the team, we experienced a miracle-not once but twice -and have our son today.”

Donate in honor of Lawson by visiting his fundraising page here. Until no child needs us, we need you.

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