THE DEATH of a Physical Therapy (PT) student that had been initially ascribed to a lab experiment with naphthalene was actually caused by an autoimmune disease, the victim’s mother said.

Elvira Pangandian, mother of PT sophomore Camille Joy Pangandian, said that Camille had died of systemic lupus erythematosus (lupus) disease, instead of the naphthalene she used in an experiment during her General Organic Chemistry class.

“The long time interval between her exposure to naphthalene made the doctors rule out that it was the chemical that triggered her death,” Pangandian said.

Camille’s Chemistry professor, Allan Salcedo, said that the naphthalene they used was not toxic.

Elvira said Camille did not exhibit signs characteristic of the complications caused by naphthalene. Exposure to naphthalene can cause skin irritation, nausea, abdominal cramps, or even death if exposure is prolonged.

But the true cause of her daughter’s death took her by surprise as she was not aware that she was suffering from lupus.

Lupus is a disease where the body’s tissues are attacked by its own immune system, causing malfunctions in the kidney, heart, lungs or blood cells. People with lupus produce antibodies which, instead of fighting foreign infections, attack the body. Common symptoms include fatigue, joint pain or arthritis. Factors can be either hereditary or environmental, such as infections.

“No one knew Camille had lupus because she lived a normal life,” Elvira said. “She could have had lupus since birth.”

Elvira added that her daughter suffered from situs inversus, a condition where the internal organs are in the wrong side of the body. Her heart, for example, which should be located in the left side of the body, was at her right side. They only found this out when Camille had her x-ray examination last Nov. 2 at the Makati Medical Center.

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“Had naphthalene triggered her lupus, the effects should have been immediate,” Salcedo said. Ivan Angelo L. de Lara and Celina Ann M. Tobias

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