T.E.A.M. Member (survived at age 18 years)
One day during Blake’s senior year, he stayed home from school because he wasn’t feeling well. He woke up with a stiff neck and felt so weak that he could barely stand. When Blake developed a purple rash, his dad rushed him to the ER where doctors thought he had the flu. His condition quickly deteriorated and Blake was transferred to Vanderbilt Hospital. Blake awoke from a coma a week later to learn he had meningococcal disease and was suffering from severe complications. It was months before Blake could walk independently again and he was on dialysis until receiving a kidney transplant in 2006.
Blake is now a registered nurse who helps provide dialysis to people in their homes. He hopes to show others that they can have a life after serious illness. Blake is also dedicated to raising awareness of meningococcal disease and its prevention.
M.O.M. of Lawson (age 18 years)
Cathy’s daughter Lawson was a vibrant 18-year-old. After a day of horseback riding, she went to bed early with a headache. Cathy assumed she was overly tired, but later became concerned because Lawson was very sluggish. Cathy took Lawson to the hospital. Though she did not have a fever or rash, Lawson became increasingly lethargic and sensitive to light. Doctors ordered a spinal tap which confirmed meningitis. Despite treatment, Lawson passed away from what Cathy later learned was pneumococcal meningitis.
Cathy works with NMA to raise awareness about the dangers and prevention of bacterial meningitis. She feels it’s critical for communities to know about the symptoms of all types of bacterial meningitis and wants to help educate others about recommended meningococcal vaccinations which can prevent the majority of bacterial meningitis cases in adolescents.
M.O.M. of Gavin (survived at age 6 months)
Echo Bennett’s son, Gavin, was only 6 months old when he nearly lost his life to meningococcal disease. One morning, Gavin woke up feverish and refused to eat. The local health clinic told Echo that Gavin probably had the flu. When he developed a rash on his thighs that spread to his face, Echo dialed 911. Gavin was transferred to three hospitals before receiving the treatment that would ultimately save his life. Only 18 hours after his symptoms began, doctors told Echo he had a 10 percent chance of survival. Despite the odds, Gavin lived. Due to extensive tissue damage, he had to undergo numerous surgeries and has many more ahead. Although the scars covering his body are a constant reminder of his battle with meningococcal disease, Gavin is a happy, active boy who loves to play sports.
“My hope is to raise awareness to help prevent this disease from affecting other families,” said Echo. “It’s important for parents to be able to recognize its signs and symptoms and to understand that vaccination is available for their infant children.”
Linda and Dwight Fryer
Parents of Adrienne (age 16 years)
Linda Fryer’s daughter, Adrienne, was a loving, funny and intelligent 16-year-old who played clarinet in her high school band, when she lost her life to meningococcal disease. Adrienne went with her sister to a movie and when she got home she complained she wasn’t feeling well and had pain in her legs. She went to bed, but awoke at 2:00 a.m. with a fever. The next morning, Adrienne’s condition worsened. She had a very high fever, and was lethargic, achy, and dehydrated. Linda decided to take her to the hospital. By the time they arrived, Adrienne could barely walk. Doctors told Linda her daughter was very sick, but they didn’t know why. They decided to transport Adrienne to another hospital, but Adrienne had passed away.
“Parents need to know that meningococcal disease exists and that it can be prevented,” said Linda. “Had I known, my daughter Adrienne would have been vaccinated and might be alive today. After losing Adrienne, I made sure that my other daughter, Amanda, was vaccinated against this disease.”