PLYMOUTH—At 16, Samantha Reckis has the long auburn hair she had as a child, the same laugh, the same spirit. But she is not the same person, nor are her parents, since she suffered devastating injuries after taking Children’s Motrin at age 7.
A Plymouth County jury this week awarded Samantha and her parents a record $63 million in damages against drugmaker Johnson & Johnson for failing to adequately warn patients about the painkiller’s potential side effects.
In an interview with the Globe Friday afternoon, Samantha’s parents Lisa and Richard Reckis spoke about their daughter, the verdict, and the challenges she faces. Her parents, who are divorced, did not want Samantha to speak to the press.
Samantha, now a high school freshman in Plymouth, has remained on the honor roll despite six brain surgeries.
“She has to work twice as hard as other students to keep up her grades,” says her mother. “She doesn’t want anyone to pity her. She just wants a normal life.”
Her parents describe their daughter as “a happy kid,” strong willed and driven. She wants to go to college to study nursing, her mother says, because she saw what her doctors and nurses could do. “She wants to help other people, especially children.”
After taking the Children’s Motrin at Thanksgiving 2003, Samantha suffered a severe reaction that resulted in the loss of most of her skin, permanent lung and liver damage, and blindness. Over the years, she has undergone nearly 40 surgeries. She first underwent brain surgery after having an aneursym and a stroke shortly after her reaction to the drug.
Her injuries haven’t stopped her from one of her main passions: Reading the Harry Potter books. She reads on a special television that magnifies the type onto a screen a couple of inches from her face.
“It takes her forever,” says Lisa. “But she absolutely loves Harry Potter. Most of her childhood has been about medicines and operations. This is fun and magic.”
After the verdict Wednesday, her mother asked where she wanted to go if she could go anywhere in the world. “To Universal Studios in Florida,” Samantha replied, “to see Harry Potter World.”
Lisa laughs. “I just took her there, and she wants to go back.”
What the multi-million dollar award means, her parents say, is that neither they nor their daughter will have to worry about her future: college, health, and living expenses. Lisa is a personal care attendant. Richard works at a gas station.
Both say they are relieved and gratified over the verdict, which came after five weeks of testimony. “As far as Sam goes, 12 people stood up and spoke for her,” says Richard. “It made me think the last 10 years were not in vain.”