Serogroup B Testimony: Mike Barnes

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

My name is Mike Barnes and I am here today as a representative of the National Meningitis Association. I’m joined by my wife, Charlene, and daughter, Kendall.

We lost our 20-year-old son, Jimmy, to serogroup B meningococcal disease less than four months ago. He went to the ER on a Monday with a terrible headache, neck pain and high fever. He was told it was the flu and sent home. He was gone in 28 hours. He was not a college student living in a dorm and his story wasn’t covered by media or brought to the public’s attention, so I’m here to share it with you today.

Charlene and I were not able to have our own children. It took many years, but eventually we were able to adopt Jimmy when he was three days old. When he was five years old, we adopted our daughter Kendall. It was the perfect family.

We had a great life –all our vacations included the kids. Over the years, Jimmy tried every sport under the sun. We had the best pool parties and birthday parties of anyone we knew. Jimmy was the fun guy to have around. He was always joking and smiling. Everyone liked him, and he had a million friends.

As a parent, it seems as if childhood lasts forever but those teenage years fly by. First he’s struggling with homework, next he’s learning to drive and applying to college.

Jimmy applied to five colleges and was accepted to all of them. He chose Colorado State University to be near mountains to ski. However, he found the workload overwhelming and decided, after one semester, to return home.

We had missed him greatly and were glad to have him back. Not long after that, our family moved to Florida. Jimmy adjusted instantly. He loved beach life and he made a million friends, just like he always had.

Jimmy and Kendall were always very close. They were so protective of each other and loved each other very much. They were more than brother and sister, they were good friends. Kendall will feel this loss for the rest of her life.

It’s impossible to imagine what it feels like to lose your child, until it happens to you. There are now so many things I don’t have to worry about anymore, but I wish I did, like when he’s coming home at night, what kind of job he has, if he’s getting enough sleep, or if he will leave his room a mess.

I will never know what kind of man he could have turned out to be. I won’t be able to bounce his kids on my knee or take them to the beach. I can never hug him or tell him I love him ever again. Jimmy made the world brighter for us. His light is out and we wonder if the world will ever be as bright again.

Today you have the ability to make sure no other parent, like those who are here today, has to stand here and share a story of how their son or daughter died. There are now vaccines available to protect against meningitis B. On behalf of my son who is no longer here, I implore you to extend the current vaccine recommendations for adolescents to include a vaccine to prevent meningitis B. Thank you.