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Samantha Hutchinson

In 2009, Samantha was a heathy 17-year-old high school athlete when she woke up with flu-like symptoms and decided to stay home from school. Her father called to make an appointment with her doctor and the only available time left was 4:15 pm – the last one of the day.

By the time she arrived to the doctor’s office, she had developed a purple rash on her skin. Her doctor recognized it as a symptom of meningococcal disease and rushed her to the ER. They intubated her. She was placed in a medically-induced coma for six days while connected to 14 different machines that kept her alive.

Samantha spent another six days recovering in the hospital. When she was released, she had lost 14 pounds off her already fit frame.

Samantha spent the next two months at home recovering, and miraculously survived this disease with no residual physical effects. She had been vaccinated, but she contracted serogroup B. At the time, there was no vaccine available to protect against it. Now, there is. Samantha is dedicated to raising awareness about available vaccines to make sure teens and young adults are fully protected against this disease.

Jan Caliman

In July 2003, Jan’s daughter, Harmony, had just turned 19. She was a single mom to her daughter Sophia and studying to be a nurse. Harmony arrived at her job at a local nursing home early one morning in good spirits. However, a few hours later she complained of a fever and headache. As the fever grew worse, she was sent to the local ER where she was diagnosed with the flu and released to a friend. When Jan arrived at the friend’s home, she knew something was very wrong. Harmony could barely stand, had spots on her face and was burning with fever. They returned to the ER, where Harmony was diagnosed with bacterial meningitis. She died before the end of the night.

Harmony was not vaccinated. Even if she had been, the vaccine available at the time covered most strains of the disease but not serogroup B, which Harmony had. Currently available vaccines protect against five major strains of the disease, including serogroup B. Jan now participates in charity bike rides in her daughter’s memory and is a loving grandmother to Sophia. She is dedicated to educating healthcare providers, parents and adolescents about meningococcal disease.

Gail Bailey

Gail’s son, Eddy, was a junior in college when he tragically lost his life to meningococcal disease. Eddy was an ambitious student double majoring in Finance and Economics with a plan to pursue a career in finance. He had gone away for the weekend and returned feeling tired and feverish. Despite not feeling well, he attended classes and went to sleep early that night. However, when Eddy woke up the next morning he was having trouble breathing and asked his roommates to call 911. Sadly, Eddy passed away only one hour later.

“I thought that I had done all that I could to protect my children while they were away from home, but I did not know about meningococcal disease or the availability of the vaccine,” said Gail. “By raising awareness of meningococcal disease and prevention, my hope is that no other family has to have the same experiences with this disease as my family.”

Lori Buher

Lori’s son, Carl, was a healthy, athletic freshman in high school when he almost lost his life to meningococcal disease. In 2003, Carl came home from a football game complaining that he didn’t feel well. Many of Carl’s teammates had been sick with the flu, so Carl assumed he had just caught the bug. The next day, he became disoriented and developed purple splotches all over his face and arms. He was rushed to the doctor, where he was diagnosed with serogroup B meningococcal disease. As a result of the infection, Carl had to undergo amputation of both of his feet and three of his fingers. He didn’t walk again for four years.

Lori was not aware of a vaccine or that adolescents are at increased risk for meningitis until Carl got sick. At that time, however, there was no vaccine available to prevent against serogroup B, the serogroup Carl had. Lori is happy that a vaccine covering serogroup B is now available in the U.S. As a member of the NMA Board and an NMA M.O.M., Lori is dedicated to educating others about the importance of protecting their children against all strains of meningococcal disease.

Carl Buher

Carl was a freshman in high school when he came home from playing football complaining that he didn’t feel well. The next day, he had flu-like symptoms, including sleepiness, disorientation and nausea. By afternoon, his sister noticed purple splotches all over his face and arms. He was rushed to the doctor, where he was diagnosed with meningococcemia and taken to the local hospital. He was immediately airlifted to the Seattle Children’s Hospital. His heart stopped twice on the way on the way and a third time at the hospital. He was put into a drug-induced coma that lasted for three weeks. As a result of the infection, he had to undergo amputation of both of his feet and three of his fingers. It was four years before he could walk again.

Carl hadn’t been vaccinated, but even if he had, the vaccines available at the time did not protect against serogroup B disease, which Carl contracted. Carl’s goal is to educate others about prevention and to make sure they know that currently recommended vaccines protect against serogroups A, C, W and Y and that there is now a vaccine available for serogroup B. Today, Carl is a civil engineer and lives with his wife in Seattle, WA.

Melody Albrecht

On July 5, Melody Albrecht’s son, Drew, came home from football camp practice with a bad headache, which both Melody and her husband thought was due to heat exhaustion. The next day Drew’s condition continued to worsen, and he was brought to the hospital. Unable to find anything definitively wrong, the doctors sent Drew home. Within minutes of arriving home, Drew suffered a seizure and had to be rushed back to the hospital where he was placed in a medically induced coma. Less than 24 hours later, Drew was diagnosed as brain dead and passed away. It was then Melody learned that her son had contracted meningococcal disease, a very serious but vaccine-preventable bacterial infection.