Vaccine Preventable Death – MaryJo Aglubat Kwett
Age at death – 16 years
Cause of death – Meningococcus
Vaccination Status – Unvaccinated
What happened – MaryJo was a vibrant and intelligent girl who thoroughly loved life. Her mother, Rose, is a registered nurse. Early Saturday morning as Rose was getting ready for work, MaryJo complained of a sore throat. Rose examined her, but noted no unusual signs and recommended some Tylenol and lots of fluids. She checked on her later but MaryJo only mentioned feeling a little weak. In the afternoon, MaryJo telephoned her mother because she had developed brownish spots on her face. This was the first ominous sign that she was very ill. Rose was terrified as it hit her that she might have meningitis! This disease is frightening because it masquerades as the flu then suddenly bursts into a deadly conflagration.
She rushed home and found MaryJo seated on the sofa with blotchy purplish rash on her face. Brown rashes or purplish blotches indicate the infection has invaded the blood stream. Rose immediately called 911. She was taken to the emergency room where blood work and a spinal tap confirmed the diagnosis. Her body was overwhelmed by the infection that her condition deteriorated rapidly. Thirteen hours after her initial symptoms, MaryJo died from a bacterial blood infection that is vaccine-preventable. Writes Rose:
I felt devastated like the world just imploded in me! My heart was pierced right in the middle by this sharp awful arrow and weighted by a gigantic anvil. MaryJo’s face, with a tranquil smile, was still beautiful despite its purplish hue. I felt her presence hovering for a moment, before she ascended with the angels. Everybody was in a state of shock and disbelief due to the unexpected loss of this young and gifted person.
The sudden death of a healthy teenager is a shock to everyone. According to CDC (Centers for Disease Control and prevention), the Sacramento County Health Dept. and local practicing physicians, “the meningococcal vaccine is not recommended because it is expensive, the number of cases is rare, vaccinating teenagers is not cost effective and the number of deaths are negligible”. However, the devastating effect of losing a loved one to this disease is anything but “negligible”.MaryJo is remembered for her loving, spirited dedication to helping others. In her journal she wrote: “Others should be remembering us for our positive influence on the lives of those around us. We should be known because we changed someone’s life”.
The lives of our children will not be in vain. I want others to know that meningitis can happen to anyone, anywhere and at anytime even to accomplished healthy teens. Since MaryJo’s death, MAK – Meningitis Awareness Key to prevention, a nonprofit organization, was founded to campaign for increased meningitis awareness, to advocate for legislation & resolutions, and to collaborate with other agencies in support of meningitis vaccination programs.
My deepest condolences go out to MaryJo’s mother and the rest of her family. I am very sorry for your tragic loss.