M.O.M. of Cherice (age 19 years)
As a freshman in college, Claudette’s daughter, Cherice, was an outstanding student and a healthy young woman with dreams of attending medical school. On March 21, 2001, Claudette’s world was turned upside down when she learned that her daughter had died that morning from meningococcal disease, a serious, but vaccine-preventable bacterial infection. Cherice had been experiencing flu-like symptoms the day before and went to the school’s health services. She was diagnosed with the flu and told to go home and rest. It was only after Cherice’s death that Claudette learned a simple vaccination may have saved her daughter’s life.
“Cherice left behind a legacy of leadership and volunteerism,” said Claudette. “With that in mind I am working to help educate parents about the dangers of meningococcal disease and the importance of prevention methods.”
T.E.A.M. member (survived at age 22 years)
In May 2005, Jonathan Deguzman’s world was forever changed when a dangerous and potentially fatal, yet potentially vaccine-preventable bacterial infection, called meningococcal disease or meningitis, nearly took his life.
One afternoon, Jonathan began experiencing chills and figured he had the flu, so he decided to lie down in hopes that getting some rest would help him feel better. From that moment, all he can remember is being woken up by his mother, who had noticed a purplish-black rash on his hands; a common symptom of meningococcal disease. As Jonathan fluctuated in and out of consciousness, his parents rushed him to the hospital.
Jonathan awoke 12 days later from his coma to find that, in order to save his life, doctors were forced to amputate his fingers and both feet as the infection had caused gangrene in his limbs. An avid dancer, Jonathan was faced with the harsh reality that he may never be able to dance again. Unfortunately, it wasn’t until after he became sick that he and his parents learned there was a vaccine available that could have potentially prevented him from contracting the disease.
Despite a long recovery and the obstacles he faced as a result of contracting meningococcal disease, Jonathan has continued to engage in the activities he loves most, especially dancing. He is a college student, double majoring in psychology and nursing, and spends much of his free time working with the National Meningitis Association to educate others about the dangers of meningococcal disease and the importance of prevention.
T.E.A.M. member (survived at age 37 years)
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.
T.E.A.M. member (Daughter of Janet, age 62 years)
Sorcha was only 11 years old when she lost her mother, Janet, to meningitis. Janet was a healthy and active mother of four in May 2010 when she suddenly became ill. She went to seek treatment at a hospital for severe back pain and was sent home with pain medication. Two days later, her husband found her unconscious and called 911. She returned to the hospital where doctors performed a lumbar puncture and confirmed she had bacterial meningitis. After two weeks in the hospital, Janet died.
Sorcha did not know her mother’s death could have been prevented with a vaccine. She now works with the NMA and founded a club at her high school to educate students and parents about meningitis prevention.
“If my mother had been vaccinated, she might be alive today. This is a reality I have to face every single day of my life. On the day my mom died, I promised her I would spread awareness about this disease so that no one else in my community has to suffer the same pain as my family.”