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Dell Miller

In January 2015, Dell was on the beach in Laguna, California when he began to feel pain in his limbs, joints and muscles. Within 10 hours, he was covered in a purplish rash. His partner rushed him to Cedars-Sinai Medical Centre in Los Angeles where he was placed in intensive care. Dell was diagnosed with serogroup B meningococcal disease, and was fighting for his life.

He spent nearly three months in the hospital followed by two months at home in recovery. Five months after his initial diagnosis, he decided he would have to have his legs amputated below the knee.

Less than a year after becoming sick, Dell returned to work as color director and master colorist at Spoke & Weal LA, learned how to walk again with his prosthetics, and started to compete in CrossFit competitions. As a T.E.A.M. member, Dell helps raise awareness about meningococcal disease and its prevention. He also helps support adaptive athletes around the world.

Casey Stewart

In 1999, Casey was attending culinary school in California when he began to experience flu-like symptoms including a severe headache, sensitivity to light as well as back and neck pain.

Casey was admitted to University of California, Los Angeles Medical Center where doctors diagnosed him with pneumococcal meningitis. After recovering in the hospital, Casey began pain management therapy and physical rehabilitation. He lost the use of his lower extremities and continues to experience pain and long-term medical issues from this disease.

In 2004, Casey married his wife Michelle. Starting in 2007, Casey and Michelle hold an annual golf tournament to raise money to educate others about the disease in support of NMA.

Laurie and Greg Stelzer

Laurie and Greg’s daughter Sara was a freshman at San Diego State University when she called home one evening to say she didn’t feel well. Despite feeling sick, she attended class the next day to deliver a speech. The following day, she developed a rash of small purplish red spots on her legs and was rushed to the hospital. When Laurie and Greg arrived at the hospital, just 40 hours after that first call, Sara was in a coma and on a ventilator. Days later, she passed away from serogroup B meningococcal disease.

Sara had been vaccinated, but at the time, available vaccines only protected against four of the five serogroups of meningococcal disease. Now vaccines are available to protect against all major serogroups. Laurie and Greg work with NMA to spread awareness about the symptoms of meningitis and available vaccination options.

Kyla Winters

In the summer of 2009, Kyla suddenly became ill and was rushed to the ER where doctors quickly gave her antibiotics. Doctors confirmed she had bacterial meningitis and told her family she had a 10 percent chance of survival. One complication followed another – respiratory and kidney failure, extremely low blood pressure and several cardiac arrests. Kyla was in the ICU for six weeks and remained in the hospital for almost four months. In order to save her life, doctors amputated both her legs below the knee and all of her fingers.

After leaving the hospital, Kyla’s pregnant twin sister, Liana, moved with her husband and young son to San Diego so they could care for her. Kyla was on dialysis for ten hours every night and had several hand surgeries. In 2010, Kyla received a kidney transplant from Liana. Today, Kyla educates others about meningococcal vaccination and raises awareness about organ donation.

Lisa Benatar

Lisa’s daughter, Emily, was a smart, fun-loving freshman at Washington University in St. Louis when she lost her life to serogroup B meningococcal disease. She went to the ER complaining of a pain in her chest and stomach. While there, she vomited so much that she needed IV fluids in order to rehydrate, but was released back to her dorm after midnight. That night, her father flew from California to be with her. The next day, he brought her to the student health center because she had a rash that looked like hives on her stomach, legs and arms. The rash was different from the purple rash most often associated with meningococcemia, so she was sent back to her dorm. An unbearable headache and overall numbness sent Emily back to the ER that night where she was diagnosed with bacterial meningitis. She passed away three weeks later.

Emily had been vaccinated, but vaccines available at the time did not cover serogroup B, which Emily had. Lisa is thankful that available vaccines now cover five major strains of the disease, including serogroup B. Today, she educates others about prevention and works to increase awareness of the signs and symptoms of meningitis to help protect other families from this devastating disease.

Karen Crespo

Karen, a nurse at a Los Angeles hospital, was alone in her apartment when she started feeling sick. At first she assumed she had the flu, but when her feet became numb she knew something more was wrong. By the time she was admitted to the emergency room she could no longer walk. Karen was diagnosed with meningococcemia and spent the next 15 days in a coma and another five months in the intensive care unit. She survived two heart attacks, a blood clot in her brain as well as kidney and respiratory failure. As a result of the infection, Karen underwent amputation of her arms and legs and still has other long-term complications, including hearing loss.

In September 2014, Karen became the first quadruple-amputee to walk the runway at New York Fashion Week. She is dedicated to promoting awareness of meningococcal disease and its prevention.

Suzanne Schoelen

Suzanne’s son Braden was 10-years-old when he lost his life to meningococcal disease. In January 2010, Braden woke up with a headache, fever and pain in his arms and legs. Minutes later, he began to vomit, so thinking her son had the flu, Suzanne kept him home from school. By early afternoon he was too weak to walk, and had become disoriented and confused. Suzanne then noticed a small rash on his ear. Braden was taken to a local hospital and emergency room doctors recognized the rash as a telltale symptom of meningococcemia. They rushed him to isolation where he was placed on antibiotics. Despite doctors’ efforts, Braden went into cardiac arrest and lost his battle to meningococcal disease just 17 hours after the initial onset of symptoms.

“I didn’t know about meningococcal disease before it struck my son,” said Suzanne “I encourage parents to educate themselves about this disease and speak to their children’s healthcare providers about vaccination.”

Amy Purdy

Amy had a promising career as a massage therapist ahead of her and was active in snowboarding and other outdoor activities when she contracted a serious bacterial infection called meningococcal disease. Amy was a healthy active teenager and never thought she would come so close to losing her life due to a potentially vaccine-preventable disease.

One day during the summer of 1999, at age 19, Amy called her mother to tell her she wasn’t feeling well; she had a stiff neck and felt extremely tired. Later that day, Amy began vomiting and became so ill that she had to be rushed to the emergency room by her cousin.

When Amy arrived at the hospital, her condition deteriorated quickly and was soon fighting for her life. Following a blood culture, the doctors diagnosed Amy with meningococcemia, a form of meningococcal disease the causes poisoning of the blood system. Amy’s organs began to fail and doctors put her into a medically-induced coma to help her body fight the infection.

Amy’s condition slowly began to improve, but she had a long road to recovery ahead of her. She suffered from severe gangrene in her legs and feet and doctors had to amputate both of her legs below the knee. She also lost hearing in her left ear. Finally, the infection caused major organ damage and as a result, she had her kidney and spleen removed. Nearly two years later, Amy received a kidney transplant from her father.

Kimberley McClintock

Kimberly’s son, Shane, was a vibrant, healthy 6-year-old boy. He spent his days playing video games, racing motorcycles and anticipating the opening of the local skate park. Shane’s good nature earned him the respect and adoration of his family and friends. One day, Shane complained of back and leg pain and a headache. Kimberly thought he just needed rest and suggested a nap, but his symptoms, including vomiting and diarrhea, worsened. That evening, his sister called an ambulance after noticing his rising fever, shallow breathing and a bluish tint to his skin. When the paramedics arrived, Shane’s temperature was 104.9 degrees. Later, a rash appeared near his collarbone and spread across his torso. Doctors diagnosed Shane with meningococcal disease, but it was too late. Shane died less than 15 hours after his first symptoms.

“I didn’t recognize the symptoms or realize how serious this disease can be when it struck my son,” said Kimberly. “I only hope that by sharing my story others will see the value of awareness and immunization.”

Jenna Mangiagli

Jenna was almost two years old when she woke from a nap with a slight fever during a bad flu season. A little later, I suspected something wasn’t right and brought her to the home of a close friend and pediatrician. Jenna’s temperature was 106 degrees and she had two red dots under her arm. My friend sent us to the ER. The disease created deep open wounds, but Jenna survived without amputations. She had to learn to walk and talk again after being in the hospital over three weeks.

Teresa and Jenna are grateful that their friend recognized the early symptoms and feel lucky that Jenna fully recovered. They are working with NMA to help spread awareness about meningococcal disease in their community.