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Della McDermott

Ashley Graber

Ashley’s daughter, MaLea, almost lost her life to a rare but serious infection called meningococcal disease when she was just 7 months old. One day in 2011, MaLea had a high fever and wasn’t acting like her cheerful self. MaLea’s doctor suspected a virus and told Ashley to take her home to rest. Within hours MaLea grew lethargic. When Ashley saw a purplish rash on her body, she rushed MaLea to the hospital. To save her life, doctors had to amputate both legs above her knees. MaLea has since undergone 24 surgeries and has years of rehabilitation ahead. Vaccines to help prevent meningococcal disease are available for children 9 months and older, and Ashley hopes that one day a vaccine will be available to help protect younger infants.

“Before Malea got sick, I didn’t understand just how serious this disease was or what it could do to the body,” said Ashley. “I hope to educate other parents to help them recognize the signs and symptoms and to understand that vaccination is available for children 9 months and older.”

Holly Burch

Holly Burch’s son, Drew, was an active high school senior when he died from meningococcal disease, a serious but vaccine-preventable bacterial infection. A leader by nature, Drew was junior class president and a competitive skateboarder. He was loved by many for his passion for life. One day, Drew developed flu-like symptoms. Thinking he just needed rest, Holly suggested he go to bed early. When Holly went to wake Drew for school the next day, she was shocked to find him unresponsive. Holly immediately called 911, and paramedics rushed Drew to the emergency room. Sadly, Drew died only a few hours later. It wasn’t until after Drew’s death that Holly learned vaccination can prevent meningococcal disease.

“Everything I do now is for Drew,” said Holly. “I hope to prevent other families from experiencing the devastating effects of meningococcal disease.”

Drew’s sister, Tessa Ottley, is a T.E.A.M. member.