Tuesday, June 16, 2015

How I Lost My Daughter to Meningococcal Disease in 9 Days

Exactly three years ago this week, my 17 year old daughter Kimberly from Long Island, New York was in the ICU fighting for her life. Then on June 15, 2012, I lost my beautiful daughter to meningococcemia.

Let me give you an idea of how rapidly meningococcal disease progresses.

On a Tuesday evening, Kim was feeling fine and was working at the local pizzeria serving pizza.

The following day, Kim came home from school, texted me late in the afternoon after taking a nap saying she was feeling achy and had a temp of 101.

When I got home, I called the pediatrician who suggested bringing her into the office the next morning because it sounded like the flu.

Based on how Kim looked and with my background of being a nurse, I agreed with him. Plus, I had seen her more sick than this in the past.

8 hours later on Thursday morning, Kim told me she felt like her ankles were bleeding. I looked and saw 3 tiny petechiae (small bruises) on one ankle.

A few hours later, when the Emergency Room doctor told me Kim had meningitis, I told her, "That’s not possible. She’s already been vaccinated."

A few more hours later she was in the PICU (Pediatric Intensive Care Unit) in septic shock, internally bleeding throughout her body, while covered from head to toe in a purplish rash.

My son had to get special permission from the army to leave basic training to come home to say good-bye to his little sister.

If Kim had been lucky enough to survive this horrific disease, she would have been a quadruple amputee due to the necrosis of her limbs. The necrosis had occurred in hours.

Kim was diagnosed with meningococcal disease promptly and properly treated with antibiotics immediately, However due to the virulent nature of the diseases, 9 days later she was declared brain dead from this blood stream infection. We removed her from life support after the confirmation from the intensivists and specialists that she was already gone.

I buried my beautiful daughter Kim in her prom dress two days before she was to wear it to her senior prom, and three days before her high school graduation.

Meningitis is a potentially vaccine preventable disease... But the current vaccines do not protect against all serogroups

Kim was up to date on all of her vaccines including the meningococcal vaccine, but she contracted serogroup B, which the current MCV4 vaccines do not protect against.

Although serogroup B vaccines were not available at the time for Kim, they are now available which will help prevent other families from going through what my family did – but more importantly they will save lives.

I now work with the National Meningitis Association to promote awareness of meningococcal disease and its prevention by vaccine. In February, I attended the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) meeting on behalf of the National Meningitis Association and told them Kim’s story and asked them to please make meningococcal serogroup B vaccines available to all teens and adolescents along with the current MCV4 vaccines to that we can have broad protection against all five serogroups of this disease.

One more life lost to this disease is one too many.

Patti and her daughter Kim 2012

Meningitis Facts from NMA

Meningococcal disease is a rare but potentially deadly bacterial infection that is sometimes called bacterial meningitis or just meningitis.
• There are two forms of infection, meningitis and meningococcemia.
• Meningococcal bacteria are spread through the transmission of respiratory droplets. For example, through coughing or kissing.
• Early symptoms are often mistaken for the flu, making it difficult to diagnose.
• And, the disease is fast moving. Quick treatment is critical and can save a life.

While meningococcal disease can strike anyone, teens are at increased risk for the disease. In fact, about 21 percent of all cases in the U.S. occur among adolescents and young adults. There is also a higher death rate in this age group.
 • Because living in dorms creates lengthy periods of close contact, college freshmen are also at higher risk.
• Approximately 600‐1,000 Americans get meningococcal disease each year. About 10 to 15 % who get the infection die from it. 
• Because meningococcal disease can act so quickly, even survivors who received treatment can be affected by long‐term complications, including brain damage, hearing loss, organ failure and limb amputations. Prevention is critical.
Vaccination is the best protection against meningococcal disease.
• The currently recommended vaccination protects against four of the five major serogroups of the bacteria that cause meningococcal disease in the U.S.
• The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends this vaccine for all 1112 year olds, with a booster at age 16.
• However, this vaccine does not protect against serogroup B meningococcal disease, which is the most common cause of the disease in adolescents and has caused recent college outbreaks.
• The FDA recently approved the first vaccines to protect against serogroup B in the U.S. In February, the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices voted to recommend the new serogroup B vaccines to highrisk groups, including individuals with complement component deficiencies, asplenia, lab personnel who work with meningococcal bacteria and those who have been exposed to an outbreak.

ACIP will consider broader recommendations to protect adolescents at their meeting this June. In the meantime, it is available and patients can ask their doctors about B vaccination.

Outbreaks of serogroup B disease occurred on four college campuses from March 2013 to February 2015 at the University of Oregon, Providence College, Princeton University and the University of California, Santa Barbara.
• Two deaths were associated with these outbreaks – one connected to the Princeton University outbreak and one at the University of Oregon.
• All affected universities carried out mass vaccination clinics to protect students and faculty against serogroup B.
• The University of Oregon is currently working to encourage more students to get vaccinated and return for additional doses.
• The rapid actions taken by the Providence community to vaccinate students have been credited with helping to stem the outbreak.
• Princeton vaccinated this year’s incoming students against serogroup B and the CDC recently determined that their students are at no greater risk than students at any other university.

As you can see, even though the majority of US teens get vaccinated against meningitis, there is still a lot of room for improvement.
• Vaccination rates vary by state. 
• One in five US teens has not yet received a first dose of meningococcal vaccination.
• Less than onethird of firstdose recipients have received the recommended booster dose.  
• And almost all teens are not currently protected against serogroup B.

For more info on Meningococcal  Disease and Prevention visit the NMA website http://www.nmaus.org/disease-prevention-information/statistics-and-disease-facts/

Patti Wukovits, R.N. Secretary of Nurses Who Vaccinate
Patti Wukovits has been a registered nurse for 9 years. She is the Executive Director of The Kimberly Coffey Foundation, a foundation she and her husband established after the loss of her daughter Kim. The Kimberly Coffey Foundation’s mission is to educate the public and healthcare professionals about bacterial meningitis (meningococcal disease), including the symptoms of the disease and the importance of prevention through vaccination. Patti has also made The Kimberly Coffey Memorial Nursing Scholarship available in Kim's name as Kim’s dream was to be a pediatric nurse. She is a M.O.M. (Moms on Meningitis) with the National Meningitis Association. Married with 4 children (her son Chris, her daughter Kim, her stepdaughter Jaclyn and her stepson John). Donations to The Kimberly Coffey Foundation can be made through www.KimberlyCoffeyFoundation.org