M.O.M. of Erin (age 18 years)
Cindy Krejny’s daughter, Erin, was just days away from her 19th birthday when she lost her life to meningococcal disease. One afternoon, Erin began feeling sick and complained to her friends of numbness in her arms and legs and a stiff neck. The next day, Cindy received a phone call from her daughter’s friends saying Erin was at the hospital with the flu. Cindy and her husband Tom called the hospital and were told they should come immediately. The hospital was three hours away. By the time they arrived, Erin had died. Heartbroken and confused, the Krejny’s were told their daughter had a rare, serious bacterial infection called meningococcal disease. Most tragically, they learned too late that vaccination could have helped prevent the disease and save their daughter’s life.
“Meningococcal disease attacks so fast, is so deadly and is so dangerous,” said Cindy. “That’s why prevention through vaccination is so important.”
M.O.M. of Phoenix (age 3 years)
In 2012, Clare lost her three-year-old son Phoenix to meningococcal disease. One morning he woke with a mild fever, but played and ate normally. After a nap, he started vomiting and had diarrhea. His temperature was 104 degrees. Clare rushed Phoenix to the ER where his condition worsened. He spent the next three days on life support while doctors tried to save his life. On the fourth day, Phoenix passed away.
Clare works with the National Meningitis Association because she wants parents to be aware of the symptoms of meningitis and understand that they can ask for a meningococcal vaccination for their young children. Phoenix’s twin brother has been vaccinated.
T.E.A.M. member (survived at age 39 years)
Michael LaForgia was a 40-year-old father of three when he contracted meningococcal disease. In December 2004, Michael was celebrating New Year’s with his family in Maine. He woke in the middle of the night with an excruciating headache, nausea and chills. Thinking he had the flu, the family cut the trip short and returned to New York. The next night, Michael’s wife saw a purplish rash on his face. When he became too weak to walk, she took him to the hospital.Michael was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit when he began to have trouble breathing and his organs began failing. Doctors did not expect him to survive the night. By the time he was transferred to another hospital, Michael’s face was unrecognizable – it was swollen and turning black, along with his limbs. Doctors gave Michael antibiotics and after eight days in a coma, he began to improve. Michael survived, but endured the amputation of his right leg below the knee and part of his left foot. He spent two months in the hospital and five months in rehabilitation.
Despite these obstacles Michael, who was an avid runner prior to contracting meningococcal disease, has returned to competing in marathons and triathlons. Michael ran the New York City marathon twice before becoming ill (2002 & 2004), and again for the first time as an amputee in November, 2009. “Meningococcal meningitis changed my life,” says Michael. “My goal is to share my story and educate people about meningococcal disease and the importance of vaccination, so that no one else has to experience this devastating disease.”
T.E.A.M. member (survived at age 14 years)
While away at a Massachusetts summer camp in 1999, 14-year old Nick Springer contracted a rare, but potentially deadly infection called meningococcal disease. Although he survived, he endured the amputation of his hands and his legs below the knees. He also lost hearing in his left ear as a result of the disease.
Nick and his family didn’t know about the disease or about the lifestyle factors common among adolescents and young adults that increase their risk. These include crowded living situations, such as sleep-away camps. Nor did they know meningococcal disease is potentially vaccine preventable.
On August 6, Nick complained of not feeling well, and he stayed overnight in the camp infirmary. By morning, he was vomiting severely and had a rash on his torso. Realizing Nick had a serious bacterial infection, the camp immediately administered an IV antibiotic and transported Nick to the nearest hospital. There, Nick was diagnosed with meningococcal meningitis and was transferred to a second hospital better equipped to deal with his condition.
The emergency doctor at Berkshire Medical Center called Nick’s parents to say that he was very sick and was being airlifted to Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, Massachusetts. Nick was then put into a drug-induced coma that would last for nearly two months.
Nick has since recovered and continues to stay active by competing in events like wheelchair rugby with the USA Paralympics team. His team won a gold medal at the Beijing Paralympics. Nick also helps in the rehabilitation process for those with new injuries and teaches children in wheelchairs.