Help Protect Your Children from Meningitis
By Shara Ludlum
As a mother of two active preteen children, I do all that I can to keep them healthy and safe. Now that school is back in session, I encourage all parents to learn about meningococcal meningitis and speak with their child’s health-care provider about vaccination.
Meningococcal meningitis is a rare, but serious bacterial infection that can take an otherwise healthy child’s life in just a single day. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends vaccination for preteens and teens. Yet, in Colorado, only about half of adolescents 13 to 17 years of age have been vaccinated against meningitis, which is far below the CDC’s goal of a 90 percent vaccination rate by the end of this year. Everyday activities common in schools like spending long periods of time in large groups or sharing water bottles during sports practices can put even healthy kids at increased risk for the disease.
I am constantly reminded about the devastating nature of this disease – a disease that I never thought would affect my family. In 2008, my preteen son Tyler began running a high fever, so I took him to the doctor and later to the emergency room. Diagnosed with a virus each time, Tyler was sent home to rest.
The next day, he was having trouble breathing, so I rushed him back to the hospital, where he then developed a purplish rash on his feet and was finally diagnosed with meningococcal disease. By the time we got there, the disease had already infected his bloodstream.
Luckily, Tyler survived, but he was in the hospital for almost 3 months. Doctors had to amputate his feet and some of the fingers on his right hand. It wasn’t until after Tyler got sick that I learned that vaccination is available for children Tyler’s age to help prevent meningitis.
Despite his ordeal, I am proud to say that Tyler remains an active 12-year-old. He participates in school sports and enjoys rock climbing – all on his new prosthetic feet. Tyler and I work to raise awareness about meningitis and vaccination through a national campaign called Voices of Meningitis. You can hear more about our story and other families affected by meningitis by visiting www.VoicesofMeningitis.org.
Shara prepared this article for the Recorder Online.
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