Serogroup B Testimony: Caitlin Brison

This testimony was submitted to the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices on June 26, 2015.

Members of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices:

I have many memories that bring a smile to my face; like playing sports with my friends, catching fireflies in the backyard and meeting my love for the first time. There are also memories that bring pain. Some bring literal pain, like when I broke my ankle trying to fly like Mary Poppins. Others bring emotional pain, like my first broken heart. One memory brings me both physical and emotional pain every day: I was offered the meningococcal vaccine before my freshman year at college and I turned it down.

I had never heard much about meningitis. I had no idea how dangerous meningococcal disease is. The doctor said I didn’t have to get it and I thought I was a young, healthy and unstoppable force ready to conquer college and so much more. Oh how I learned to regret that decision!

In March of 2008 I contracted bacterial meningitis during a spring break trip to the beach with my friends. I was in the hospital for almost three weeks, and could barely sit up when I got out. I underwent months of intensive physical therapy and had to re-teach my body how to walk.

The long-term kidney problems have had the biggest effect on my life. I was on 24 hour dialysis in the hospital, and then three times a week for four months when I got out. For the past seven years I have dealt with ESRD and all the lovely side effects that go with it. Last year, at the age of 25, my kidneys deteriorated to a level where it was necessary go on dialysis once again. Now, I have a tube sticking out of my body. I hate it so much. I have to be constantly aware and careful all the time to avoid infection.

I have moments, sometimes more than a moment, where depression sneaks in and grips my heart. I feel like I had my 20’s stolen away from me. I was always the sick girl, having to go home early to hook up to my “machine”, or just from sheer exhaustion. I hated having to be the one that everybody made special exceptions for, like “oh no, we can’t go to the pool, because Caitlin can’t get in,” or “oh, we can’t go on that canoeing trip because Caitlin has to get back to her dialysis and there’s no electricity.” It’s terrible feeling like you’re holding everybody back.

Meningitis affected me, my family, my friends, my job, my ENTIRE LIFE in a very deep and profound way. Nobody should go through all this pain, and nobody has to!

Please do the right thing and vote for a recommendation to help spare somebody else years of tears and hurt; years that should be spent laughing, living, learning and loving.

Thank you,

Caitlin Brison, T.E.A.M. (Together Educating about Meningitis) Member
National Meningitis Association