Shannon Owens of the Orlando Sentinel ran a great piece this morning about the life-threatening illness Bethune-Cookman Baseball Skipper Jason Beverlin battled in 2013. His case is amazing, especially considering that he has no residual effects from the illness and is now back on the field for another season to lead the Wildcats. I hope that you enjoy this piece.
Story by Shannon J. Owens
DAYTONA BEACH — He was fed up.
Bethune-Cookman baseball coach Jason Beverlin stopped practice when he saw the lackadaisical effort from his players a few weeks ago. He called them to attention and left them with a message.
“If today was your last day playing baseball, how would you want to remember it?”
Players knew just how personal that question was for Beverlin. Last spring, the 40-year-old coach was fighting for his life 100 miles away from Daytona at the burn unit of UF Health Shands Hospital in Gainesville. A severe allergic reaction to a prescription medicine caused his body to burn from the inside out.
There are moments when players forget about their coach’s harrowing experience, but there are moments that remind them they can’t take any opportunities for granted.
“You have no excuse to say anything now,” said Josh Johnson, a senior outfielder for B-CU.
Beverlin’s nightmare started with either a cut or a bug bite. He’s not sure what caused the initial wound or when it happened. All he remembers is that his right arm almost swelled to the size of his calf by the time the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference tournament rolled around last May in Virginia. A team athletic trainer taped it so he couldn’t touch what appeared to be an infected wound.
He went to the emergency room at Halifax Health Center in Daytona shortly after the team returned May 20 and was treated for cellulitis, a common skin infection. His family doctor prescribed a medicine called bactrim and that’s when his severe problems started.
By May 31, he returned to the hospital with a rash he says felt like the worst sunburn of his life. Doctors temporarily took him off bactrim to try a new round of medicine. It seemed to work and they put him back on his original medication, unaware that he was allergic to it.
Day by day, his condition deteriorated. The rash returned with a vengeance, covering his entire body. He experienced flu-like symptoms and his skin started to blister and shed.
“It almost felt like the flu, but [also] being put in the oven,” Beverlin said.
His illness reached its apex on June 5 when he laid on his couch unable to move. A neighbor, who was checking in on him while his wife, Heather, was at work, took him back to the emergency room.
Doctors finally discovered what was wrong — toxic epidermal necrolysis. The medicine was poisoning his body.
Roughly one in 1.4 million people a year are treated for toxic epidermal necrolysis, making it difficult to get an early diagnosis. Typically, patients who can contract the disease can lose up to 30 percent of their skin and there is a 30 to 40 percent mortality rate. Beverlin was losing all of his skin and doctors were unable to treat him in Daytona.
“There’s a number of medications that have been tried with TENs and Stevens Johnson Syndrome,” said Dr. Winston Richards, a clinical assistant professor of surgery at the University of Florida. “But as a whole, I don’t think the medical field has enough patients or experience, say in a randomized or controlled trial setting, to determine if they work any better than an offending medication and topically treating the wounds and keeping them clean.”
Family friends watched Beverlin’s two sons — Cole, 14, and Lucas, 9, — as his wife got devastating news from an emergency room nurse.
“She said you need to bring the boys up to say goodbye,” Beverlin’s wife said, her voice cracking. “It was tough.”