Stiletto and Extremus

Why Vaccinate
CDC and Meningitis
Stiletto and Extremus

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Abby's Story

In the fall of 2002, I signed a contract with the US Army. I was 22 years old.

I was two days away from departure when my world turned upside down. On the 16th of February, I began vomiting at one o’clock in the morning and didn’t stop for hours. At some point later that morning, I woke up in serious pain and found a purple rash on my legs and stomach.

By mid-morning, I was in the emergency room and unable to walk on my own. I had meningococcal meningitis and my body was going into septic shock.

By one o’clock the next morning, my veins collapsed and my blood pressure dropped to 40/20, and by dawn, I couldn’t breathe on my own. They put me on a ventilator and placed me in a coma. My organs were failing and the rash was all over my body.

Over the next several days, a lot more went wrong. My brain started to swell and my blood clotted too quickly. Fingers and toes started to turn black—it was bad.
In the end, I lost my feet and some fingertips.

I guess there was a vaccine available at the time, but I didn’t know about it. Today, I’m working toward a Master of Public Health in Public Health Policy, and I spend as many hours as possible raising awareness about meningitis and the need to get vaccinated.

You want to keep your feet, and your life. It’s not a disease that strikes a lot of people, but when it hits, it hits hard. It’s easier to be immunized and just not worry about it. Don’t you think?

Carl's Story

I’m from a tiny town in Washington. The kind of place where everyone knows you and you know everybody.

I was a typical teenager—played sports, hung out with friends, did homework. I loved math. I’m an engineer now, so you know math has been my subject of choice.

Basketball was my favorite sport. I loved it, played it all year-round from the time I was two years old until I got sick.

I’d never heard of meningitis before I got sick. Wish I had heard of it somewhere, maybe health class or on TV. If I had, I might have recognized it when I got sick, or at least we would have known there was a vaccine against it.

When I was 14, I was a football and basketball player in high school. Football wasn’t my favorite sport, but I’m a big guy and it was a natural fit.

One night after a game, I went home and didn’t feel good. I threw up and the next day I was home alone, mostly sleeping and out of it. Felt like I was almost hallucinating. But, I thought it was the flu or food poisoning, and I figured I’d get over it in a couple of days.

My sister got home from school and woke me up. She saw purple splotches all over my arms and legs. I was freaked out.

She called my parents and they hurried home. I remember walking to the car to go to the hospital and not even feeling my legs, it didn’t feel like I was walking.

At the hospital, they did a spinal tap and confirmed it was meningitis. I was airlifted to Children’s Hospital in Seattle. My heart stopped two times in the helicopter. I had nearly two dozen IVs in me—I was pumped full of everything they could think of.

My heart stopped again once I was at Children’s. They put me in a drug-induced coma for three weeks.

I ended up losing my feet and three of my fingers.

My parents and siblings were great. Mom was always there at the hospital, and when I got back home, all my friends from high school helped me get through physical therapy. Small towns are basically just big families.

It took months before I could take one step in prostheses. Throughout high school, I was in a wheelchair during the day because I wasn’t strong enough to walk around on my own. It wasn’t until my freshman year in college that I started to walk full time.

Now that I’ve been sick, I pay attention to the news bits about meningitis and work to make people aware of the disease and the vaccines available to prevent infection.

Information is the power
parents have over disease.