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.
Heart-wrenching, but absolutely vital that other parents pay attention. One shot=One human life. It’s that simple.
Age at death – 20 years
Cause of death – Meningitis
Vaccination status – Not vaccinated (confirmed via e-mail by Becky’s mother)
Synopsis – On the morning of Feb 24, 2004, Becky got up complaining she didn’t feel well and her parents suggested that she stay at home, drink plenty of fluids and take ibuprofen, they were sure she had some type of flu. She had been fine the night before and had even gone out to eat with them. When her mother arrived home from work, Becky still did not feel well and said that she had been in bed all day. When she decided to get up for a little while and check her email, she was unsteady and went back to bed without any argument. Thing got worse during the night. She was taken to the ICU. Here is an excerpt, from the website her parents set up.
When we arrived at the ER, we were still convinced that she had some type of flu. The doctor came in and looked at her and said she had an ear infection but her blood pressure was so low. We mentioned to him that her fingertips were blue and she was complaining of her legs falling asleep. Then a flurry of things started to happen and no one was telling us anything. We never left her side and she kept asking us what was happening to her. They told us that she was being transferred to the ICU and would probably stay there for about two weeks. Two weeks for an ear infection? Every time we asked what was going on, all they could tell us was they weren’t sure yet. By the time she did get to the ICU, symptoms started to manifest themselves. No one was calling it meningitis yet. By this time, we were in shock as to what was happening. I have worked in the medical field for 24 years and I could not fathom what was happening to us and especially to her!
The ICU doctor, whom I had known for years, began to unfold what was going on. Some very good friends of ours had arrived and told Becky to call on the name of Jesus and she did! They needed to intubate her immediately. I explained to her what they were going to do and her last words were, “OK, Momma.” The doctor wanted to do it with her awake because, in hind sight, I believe he knew that if he had sedated her she would not be cognizant again. The intubation was too intolerable for her, so he sedated her.
By 8:00 pm, he approached me with tears in his eyes and I said, “She’s going to die, isn’t she?” And he responded with a nod of his head. I asked him what was going to happen next. He informed me that the disease would attack her heart and it would just stop.
By 9:00 pm her heart stopped and she slipped peacefully away with about 30 friends and relatives around her
Becky’s mother responded to my e-mail. Here is an excerpt:
I work in the medical field and I did know about meningitis. When I asked the doctors in the clinic where I worked whether she needed to be vaccinated and I was told that it was not very important because Becky lived at home!! I was afraid that the vaccine was a live virus and if I gave the vaccine to Becky and my other daughter, Annie, that they would come down with meningitis and die and I would blame myself for the rest of my life. Annie was just getting ready to head off to college and live in a dorm and I told her that we would just wait and if there was an outbreak, then we would get her the shot. Little did I know we would be the outbreak!!
Becky fell ill on Tuesday, and was gone by Wednesday. Our hearts and thoughts go out to her family and parents.
Age at death – 14 years
Cause of death – Meningococcal meningitis
Vaccination status – Unknown, possibly unvaccinated. “She didn’t know he was at-risk,” said a family member referring to Matthews mother.
Synopsis – Meyers came home from a track and field meet complaining his ribs hurt. His mom, Renee Gardner, of Lake George, thought it might be the flu, and the 14-year-old went to bed and slept through most of the day Saturday.
“On Sunday morning, she heard him moaning and groaning and called her son, Bill Meyers, who lives on the other side of the lake, to come and help,” Dufore said.
Matthew Meyers fell out of bed and was unresponsive. The family called 911, and he was taken to Clare Medical Center, where tests determined he had meningococcal meningitis. Meyers was airlifted to Covenant HealthCare in Saginaw.
After a week-long battle, Mathew succumbed to the disease shortly after 5 AM on Friday, 05/28/2010. Our heartfelt condolences go out to his family. We are very sorry for your loss.
A fundraiser bake sale will be held Sunday at the Swiss Inn located at 105 W. Park St.
A benefit dinner will be held June 5 at 2 p.m. at the Clare Eagle’s Club, where some of the local donations collected will be presented to Matthew’s mother.
Cash support may be sent to the Matthew R. Meyers Fund, c/o Community Alliance Credit Union, 37401 Plymouth Road, Livonia, MI 48150.