On the 25 February 2004, our healthy 20-year-old daughter, Becky, died unexpectedly from meningitis. Becky's death was, and continues to be, an unfathomable concept. We still cannot grasp the idea that she is gone and that we are facing the rest of our lives without her. It all happened so fast!
I was affected by meningococcal meningitis about 10 years ago, when I lost my legs and fingers because of the disease. At the time, I thought that I had lost everything, including my dreams. One day, I met a man who changed my life. He also had artificial legs like me, but he didn’t see it as an obstacle. He worked at a good company, had got married and had a lovely family. He always looked confident.
It was Christmas Eve 2005. The windows of Christmas lights flickered. Most of Krakow was preparing its Christmas supper. Andrez Kuczara was in a hospital corridor, his heart tearing with despair. Behind the door to intensive care lay his 8-year-old daughter, Dominica.
Riley was teething at the time he contracted meningitis so his initial loss of appetite and irritability was not unusual. He seemed fine in the morning but by lunchtime was unsettled and had a slight temperature. His mum, Bev, became more concerned when he didn’t want his 3pm bottle and by 5pm, Riley was grizzly and unhappy and didn’t want any food. As the day progressed his condition got worse, with projectile vomiting and diarrhoea.
I am a mother of two girls and a boy. The youngest of my girls is now an angel. In 2010, our lives changed within hours after the sudden death of my three-year-old daughter Chelsea from meningococcal meningitis.
It was Boxing Day 1989 and our family was attending a friend's outdoor party. Our six-month-old daughter Ashleigh was the star of the day and had her first swim in a pool. Next morning, Ashleigh wasn't acting like herself. She was restless, whining and had a high temperature that wouldn't decrease.
My son Ryan was born on 10 August 2006. He was a healthy 8lbs 1oz baby. He was so funny, so cute, with big blue eyes and blonde hair. He was perfect. I had a beautiful baby boy for 14 months. On 27 October the next year, we were at my middle son’s last soccer game. Ryan was running around playing with soccer balls, eating snacks, drinking his juice, riding on his daddy’s neck, smiling and laughing. It was a great day. The weather was perfect. We were doing the same thing we do every other night – playing, walking, running, eating dinner. Normal things.
I was four years old. A healthy and happy child. That day, for the first time, I had a fever and did not feel well at all. But for the rest of the week, no symptoms of my sickness showed.
Our son was victim of pneumococcal meningitis in 2004. With Pedro Arthur just starting to take his first steps, what appeared to be a sinus infection was diagnosed as meningitis – with fever, vomiting and seizures. He was in a coma for two weeks, waking up to the consequences that would change his life, his family and friends.
On 8 February 2011, I received a phone call that devastated my life forever. My son, Nicolis, has been diagnosed with bacterial meningitis. He’d woken that morning at college with a bad headache and high fever. The school nurse gave him a couple of Tylenol pills and sent him back to his apartment to rest.
On account of our ignorance about meningitis, we lost our daughter Audrey. She was 12 years old and died from meningococcal C meningitis after 24 hours of pain, vomiting, fever, skin discolorations (purpura) and sensitivity to light.
In 1995, Kathryn was shaken to the core of her existence with the sudden death of her 19-year-old son Michael from meningococcal septicaemia. Michael wasn't feeling well on Friday. Four days later, he died. During those sleepless days and nights, Kathryn knew her son had meningitis but was shocked that there was so little information about it.
In November 2008, my 20-year-old daughter Jamie, almost lost her life to bacterial meningococcal disease. Jamie was in hospital in Houston, Texas (USA) for over 6 months, where doctors amputated both of her legs below her knees and removed most of the fingers from both her hands.
In March 1990, our beautiful daughter Madeleine contracted haemophilus influenzae just three weeks before her third birthday. We stayed in the hospital for two weeks. After getting better, Madeleine was frustrated and angry because she could not walk, but no one said anything about her hearing or that it could be affected after meningitis.
My daughter MaryJo was a beautiful, multitalented, vibrant and well-travelled young woman when she contracted meningococcemia just 8 days before her 16th birthday in July 2000. Early Saturday morning, MaryJo felt sick – she was weak and had a sore throat. I’m a registered nurse, so I examined her throat and didn’t see anything unusual – no redness, no swelling, no blotches – but she did feel warm.
Our youngest son, Ondra, who is now 5½ years old, became seriously ill with pneumococcal meningitis at 22 months of age. We can say that he was fortunate because he survived, yet he will bear one the consequences of this insidious disease all of his life – hearing loss.
On 14 May 2007, a beautiful blonde, blue-eyed little boy named Dylan Robert McNeil was born into this world. His smile and love for life was contagious. He was a blessing to so many lives, in many different ways. Dylan loved life, and always had a big smile stretched across his face.
I started at the University of Leeds in September 2007. I was having fun, had made many friends and was enjoying my first taste of independence. I had danced since I was young and joined a dance society at university. As the semester drew to a close I was looking forward to my 19th birthday in December.
I contracted meningitis and meningococcal septicaemia C when I was 40 years old. I woke early one morning with intense pain in my lower back. It was preventing me from sleeping. I told myself it was just back pain from working long office hours, took some Panadol and tried to go back to sleep.
Lilibeth is the first born of Gerry and Rita Lozada. Their story started when Lilibeth was 10 months old back in 1972. Now 41, Lilibeth continues to be a big motivation for the entire family to work harder to sustain her medications and ensure that she gets the support she needs.
On 23 July 2013, my 24 year old brother Tyler Parker died from meningitis. In the week leading up to this day he had been complaining about pain and stiffness in his neck, along with a headache and that he was feeling nauseas and vomiting. He was a stubborn guy and rarely went to the doctors but in the first part of that week he went to the doctors to get checked out.
Bonnie had been sick for a couple of days around Christmas of 1990. We went to her doctor and he thought she had the flu. He prescribed an antibiotic. She seemed to be getting better, but a few days later Bonnie came home from school feeling very ill. I called the doctor and he thought she might not be over the flu, so he prescribed another antibiotic. We started that, but within a couple of days, she was even sicker.
My life changed forever on January 31, 2013 at 8:15 a.m. Before that moment, I was a proud busy mom juggling a career and being a mom and wife with 3 beautiful children – Karly 21, Emily 19, and Zachary 16. The night before, I had received a phone call from my Emily, who was a sophomore at Kalamazoo College - two hours away. She had a headache – a simple headache. I thought she might be coming down with the flu. She thought it was because she had stayed up all night studying for two large exams. I told her to take motrin and get a good night’s rest. I did not know this would be the last time I would ever hear her voice.
In June of 2012, my daughter Kimberly Coffey died from meningococcal disease - a vaccine-preventable disease. The reason simply being that we didn’t have a vaccine then for the specific serogroup of meningococcal disease she contracted. If there had been a serogroup B vaccine in 2012, I believe my then 17-year-old daughter would be alive today. She was up to date on all of her vaccines, including meningococcal disease, but the current vaccine did not protect her against serogroup B. It only protected her against four serogroups – A, C, W & Y.
Have you heard of Mollaret’s Meningitis? Neither had I until April 2016 when I got the official name of my rare form of viral meningitis originally diagnosed as recurrent viral meningitis. This is a disease we need to know more about, and we need research to get that.