Meningococcal disease, a severe type of meningitis, can changes lives within a day. Caused by the bacterium Neisseria meningitidis, meningococcal disease can cause serious complications or even death. Two mothers who have been personally affected by meningococcal disease talked to EmpowHer: Olga Pasick, who lost her son David, and Shara Ludlum, whose son Tyler has had complications due to meningococcal disease.
EmpowHer: Your family has been personally affected by meningococcal disease. When did you know something was wrong?
Olga Pasick: It was the start of a new school year in September, and one evening, our 13 year-old son David got the chills, spiked a high fever and vomited throughout the night. I thought he was coming down with a viral illness like the flu. By morning we called the pediatrician to have him seen. He complained that his whole body ached, and he needed help getting dress.
That’s when I noticed the purplish spots on his chest and arms. When the pediatricians saw the rash, they diagnosed him with meningococcal meningitis and sent him to the emergency room. Despite the doctor’s best efforts, David had organ failure and died a few hours later. That’s how fast this disease can take a healthy child’s life.
Shara Ludlum: My son, Tyler, came down with flu-like symptoms (fever, headache, exhaustion) the summer he turned 10 years old. After taking him to the doctor three times, the emergency room finally determined that he was gravely ill, and needed emergency transport to a bigger facility.
He fell into a coma for eight days and fought for his life. He was hospitalized for three months, then endured triple amputations on his hands and feet. Tyler is lucky to have survived meningitis, but no family should have to go through what we did, which is why I became a Voices of Meningitis and am now encouraging other families to have their preteen and teenage children vaccinated.
EmpowHer: How has meningococcal disease changed your family’s life? How have you coped with it?
Shara Ludlum: Our lives haven’t changed that much, except fitting Tyler for new prosthetics each year. It’s important to our whole family that we are out there educating about this disease, so we can share our story with others and encourage parents to talk to their child’s school nurse or health-care provider about vaccination. Tyler is a teenager now, less two feet and some fingers. We are lucky that he is alive, as so many others who contract this disease are not so fortunate.
Olga Pasick: I cope with my son’s loss by sharing our story through the Voices of Meningitis campaign, because I don’t want other families to have to go through what we did. A simple vaccine may have saved my son’s life. Preteens and teens are at greater risk for getting the disease and health officials recommend they be vaccinated beginning at age 11, with a booster dose by 18 years of age.
EmpowHer: What advice would you give to parents?
Olga Pasick: The advice I would give to parents is to be informed about meningococcal meningitis. Know the symptoms, how it spreads, and get your preteens and teens vaccinated. Talk to your school nurse or health-care provider for information. There is also a website, www.VoicesOfMeningitis.org, and Facebook page “Raise Your Voice Against Meningitis where parents can get more information and hear from other families like mine who have been personally affected by this disease. Make vaccination a top priority before sending your kids back to school.
Interview with Olga Pasick. Email. 26 August 2011
Interview with Shara Ludlum. Email 26 August 2011
Reviewed August 31, 2011
by Michele Blacksberg R.N.
Edited by Jody Smith