The Importance of Vaccinations – Ensuring Health Futures

21 August 2018

 

Susan Koenig, Intro by Becky Parry

The USA's National Immunization Awareness Month (NIAM) highlights the importance of vaccination for people of all ages. This week (19th-25th August) focuses on how vaccinating preteens and teens is vital to ensuring healthy futures. Although anyone of any age can be affected by meningitis, teenagers are at greatest risk of contracting the disease.

In 2002, Susan lost her 12 year old daughter, Emily, to bacterial meningitis. To mark NIAM, Susan shares her daughter’s story to encourage other parents to make sure their preteen and teenage children are vaccinated against meningitis.

 

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Once upon a time, there was a beautiful and charming little girl named Emily Grace Koenig. She was healthy, pretty, loving, talented, funny, and smart. She had wonderful qualities of the highest potential, but she only lived until she was 12 years old. Why?

Emily Grace Koenig will be remembered for her great personality and an inherent dedication to all that she tackled in life. For the 12 years she graced us with her presence, she impacted many – her family, her teachers, and her many friends from schools, gymnastics, and summer camps. She was a positive, polite, thoughtful, and passionate child, both in her relationships with others and in her work ethics. She had a big heart, an engaging smile, an embracing demeanour, and a keen sense of humour. She enjoyed learning, traveling, and spending time with her family and friends.

 

  

She was a vivacious, healthy seventh grader, a gymnast, and she dabbled at tennis, track, and lacrosse. In the 6th grade, she wrote and illustrated a special book, The Tallest Leprechaun, with an important message about the gifts that flow from embracing our differences.

 

 

  

On December 7th, 2002, she went shopping in a local nursery with her dad to buy plants for a school science project. She never completed the experiment - she died four days later with virtually no warning. Her symptoms started as a cold and then turned flu-like after a couple of days. The flu was going around and little did her parents or doctor know that in hours she would be dead.

 

For that dash represents all the time
That Emily spent alive on earth...
And now only those who loved her
Know what that little line is worth. 

Excerpt from “The Dash”, by Linda Ellis 

 

Emily's family started their fundraising efforts to educate people about bacterial meningitis and to provide money for research to fight this deadly disease. Since establishing the funds, the Koenig’s have successfully lobbied the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to promote the vaccination to younger children, like Emily, who previously were not recommended to receive the vaccine. The Koenigs continue to support efforts for bacterial meningitis awareness, vaccinations and research.

 

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For more information on NIAM, visit the CDC’s website, where you can also find factsheets on meningococcal vaccines for American preteens and teens.


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Written by Susan Koenig, co-founder of Emily's Dash Foundation, a  non-profit, donor – advised fund organised under the auspices of the Chester County Community Foundation (CCCF) in the USA. The EDF was established in memory of Emily Grace Koenig by her parents.