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Carol Tufano

New York

M.O.M. of Heather (survived at age 18 years)

Heather Tufano

Carol Tufano’s daughter, Heather, was a freshman in college when she contracted meningococcal disease. In October 2005, Heather called her mother to tell her she had been vomiting and felt weak. Concerned, her father, Jerry, went to check on her. When he arrived, he found that Heather could not walk and was developing a purplish rash. Jerry called Carol who as a nurse recognized the symptoms of the potentially fatal bacterial infection. She told her husband to rush Heather to a hospital. By the time they arrived, Heather’s legs had begun to turn black and her kidneys began to fail, causing septic shock. Doctors had to amputate Heather’s right leg below the knee and two of her fingers in order to save her life.

“I want all parents to be aware of the symptoms of meningococcal disease and prevention methods so they can make an informed decision on how to best protect their children,” said Carol.


Francesca Testa


T.E.A.M. member (survived at age 17 years)

Just after Easter in 2006, Francesca’s mom found her motionless in bed with purplish spots on her face, wrists and legs. Francesca had been feeling sick with a fever for a few weeks. She had seen a doctor earlier that day and asked if it might be meningitis, but was told it was just the flu. At the hospital doctors gave Francesca a 20 percent chance of survival. She beat the odds, but needed intensive physical therapy to return to normal activities, which included competitive swimming. Francesca still has long-term complications.

Francesca is working with NMA to educate others on the importance of vaccination and to help them recognize the signs and symptoms of meningitis so they can seek immediate treatment.


Jeri Acosta


M.O.M. of Robert (age 20 years)

Robert Acosta

Jeri’s son, Robert, was an active, energetic student at The University of Louisiana – Lafayette when he began feeling ill and complained of groin pain. At the school health center, he was diagnosed with a pulled muscle and sent home. Shortly after, Robert started vomiting and was rushed to the hospital, where a rash developed over his body. He was placed in the ICU and diagnosed with meningococcal disease. Sadly, Robert passed away only 21 hours after his first symptom. It was not until after Robert’s death that Jeri learned vaccination could potentially have saved her son’s life. Robert once told Jeri, “There are talkers in life, and there are doers. The talkers just talk and never accomplish anything. But the doers get stuff done. Let’s start a revolution of doers, Mom.” With this in mind, Jeri has made it her mission to educate others about the disease and its prevention.

“I pray that by educating others I can save as many lives as possible, in Robert’s memory,” said Jeri. “I’m not going to let anyone forget.”

Kayla St. Pierre


T.E.A.M. member (survived at age 10 years)

What started off as an ordinary day almost caused Kayla St. Pierre to die from a rare, but potentially deadly, bacterial infection called meningococcal disease. She survived, but not without fighting for her life—a fight that required a medically induced coma, amputations of her limbs, as well as a kidney transplant and extensive rehabilitation.

One morning in March 2000, Kayla went to school as normal, but as the day went on, she began to feel terribly ill. She left school early, complaining of pain in her legs. Concerned, her parents took Kayla home to rest, but unfortunately she was not getting better. Within hours of the first symptoms she could not walk and discovered a purple rash on her body. Her parents took her to Lawrence General Hospital in Lawrence, Massachusetts, where doctors recognized the illness as meningococcal disease and transported her to Children’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts. Kayla’s illness was severe, but could have been worse if not detected early; since meningococcal disease intensifies quickly and the lack of early diagnosis can lead to death.

Doctors were forced to place Kayla in a medically induced coma to help her body fight the disease. Then, in order to save her life, they had to amputate Kayla’s legs below the knee and some of her fingers. Later, as a result of the illness, Kayla experienced organ damage commonly associated with the potentially fatal infection, and underwent a kidney transplant.

For three months, Kayla received extensive medical care at Children’s Hospital, and she was then moved to Boston’s Shriner’s Hospital for rehabilitation. After nearly 11 months in the hospital and extensive rehabilitation she was ready to be released.

Kayla is now a college student and enjoys many sports including snowboarding, mono-skiing, playing ping-pong and hanging out with her friends. She plans to purue a career in the medical field, possibly a nurse, to give something back to the nurses and doctors that helped her through her illness.