NMA Advocates in California

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Melanie Benn


T.E.A.M. (survived at age 18 years)

On Christmas Eve when she was 18 years-old, Melanie began to experience flu-like symptoms. When her condition worsened, she was rushed to the emergency room where she was diagnosed with meningococcemia. After a one-year battle with the disease, amputations of her arms and legs, and a kidney transplant, Melanie survived and went on to achieve great things, including earning a Master’s degree in social work from UCLA and winning medals for swimming at the 2000 and 2004 U.S. Paralympics.


Jan Connon


M.O.M. of Jered (age 18 years)

Jered Connon

Jan Connon’s 18-year-old son, Jered, died in November 2002, from a deadly bacterial infection called meningococcal disease. Jered, a freshman in college, was visiting home for the weekend when he began experiencing flu-like symptoms and developed a purple rash that quickly spread across his body. As Jered’s condition continued to decline, he was rushed to the hospital where he was diagnosed with meningococcal disease. Sadly, Jered passed away only 27 hours after exhibiting his first symptoms. Unaware that adolescents and young adults are at increased risk for the disease, it wasn’t until after Jered’s death that Jan learned there was a vaccine available that could have potentially saved her son’s life.


Jonathan Deguzman


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.


Suzanne Graham


M.O.M. of Samantha (age 22 years)

Samantha Graham

Suzanne’s daughter, Samantha, was a vibrant, outgoing 22-year-old college senior when her life was tragically cut short due to meningococcal disease. One morning in 2002, Samantha called Suzanne complaining of a sore throat, headache and stiff neck. Recognizing the symptoms of meningococcal disease, Suzanne told Samantha to go to the hospital to be tested. Initial blood tests indicated Samantha’s cell count was fine and doctors concluded she was probably suffering from the flu. When getting ready to leave the hospital, Samantha’s sister noticed a rash underneath her arm and immediately called for a doctor. The doctor began treating Samantha for meningococcal disease but sadly, Samantha passed away six days later.

Clare Hoang


M.O.M. of Phoenix (age 3 years)

Pheonix Hoang

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.


Robbin Holland


M.O.M. of Thomas (age 19 years)

Thomas Kent

Robbin Holland’s 19-year-old son, Thomas Kent, was an active college student with a passion for surfing when he contracted a serious and deadly bacterial infection, called meningococcal disease. On Christmas Eve 2005, Robbin received a call urging her to rush to the hospital because her son was falling in and out of consciousness. Robbin had spoken to her son, who had been sick, earlier in the week, but thought he just had the flu. Once she arrived at the hospital, Robbin learned that Thomas had been diagnosed with meningococcal disease. Thomas passed away on Christmas day, just hours after experiencing his first symptoms.


Jenna Mangiagli


T.E.A.M. Member and M.O.M. (Jenna survived at age 2 years)

Teresa Mangiagli

Jenna was almost two years old when she woke from a nap with a slight fever during a bad flu season. A little later, I suspected something wasn’t right and brought her to the home of a close friend and pediatrician. Jenna’s temperature was 106 degrees and she had two red dots under her arm. My friend sent us to the ER. The disease created deep open wounds, but Jenna survived without amputations. She had to learn to walk and talk again after being in the hospital over three weeks.

Teresa and Jenna are grateful that their friend recognized the early symptoms and feel lucky that Jenna fully recovered. They are working with NMA to help spread awareness about meningococcal disease in their community.


Kimberley McClintock


M.O.M. of Shane (age 6 years)

Shane McClintock

Kimberly’s son, Shane, was a vibrant, healthy 6-year-old boy. He spent his days playing video games, racing motorcycles and anticipating the opening of the local skate park. Shane’s good nature earned him the respect and adoration of his family and friends. One day, Shane complained of back and leg pain and a headache. Kimberly thought he just needed rest and suggested a nap, but his symptoms, including vomiting and diarrhea, worsened. That evening, his sister called an ambulance after noticing his rising fever, shallow breathing and a bluish tint to his skin. When the paramedics arrived, Shane’s temperature was 104.9 degrees. Later, a rash appeared near his collarbone and spread across his torso. Doctors diagnosed Shane with meningococcal disease, but it was too late. Shane died less than 15 hours after his first symptoms.

“I didn’t recognize the symptoms or realize how serious this disease can be when it struck my son,” said Kimberly. “I only hope that by sharing my story others will see the value of awareness and immunization.”


Amy Purdy


T.E.A.M. member (survived at age 19 years)

Amy had a promising career as a massage therapist ahead of her and was active in snowboarding and other outdoor activities when she contracted a serious bacterial infection called meningococcal disease. Amy was a healthy active teenager and never thought she would come so close to losing her life due to a potentially vaccine-preventable disease.

One day during the summer of 1999, at age 19, Amy called her mother to tell her she wasn’t feeling well; she had a stiff neck and felt extremely tired. Later that day, Amy began vomiting and became so ill that she had to be rushed to the emergency room by her cousin.

When Amy arrived at the hospital, her condition deteriorated quickly and was soon fighting for her life. Following a blood culture, the doctors diagnosed Amy with meningococcemia, a form of meningococcal disease the causes poisoning of the blood system. Amy’s organs began to fail and doctors put her into a medically-induced coma to help her body fight the infection.

Amy’s condition slowly began to improve, but she had a long road to recovery ahead of her. She suffered from severe gangrene in her legs and feet and doctors had to amputate both of her legs below the knee. She also lost hearing in her left ear. Finally, the infection caused major organ damage and as a result, she had her kidney and spleen removed. Nearly two years later, Amy received a kidney transplant from her father.


Suzanne Schoelen


M.O.M. of Braden (age 10 years)

Braden Schoelen

Suzanne’s son Braden was 10-years-old when he lost his life to meningococcal disease. In January 2010, Braden woke up with a headache, fever and pain in his arms and legs. Minutes later, he began to vomit, so thinking her son had the flu, Suzanne kept him home from school. By early afternoon he was too weak to walk, and had become disoriented and confused. Suzanne then noticed a small rash on his ear. Braden was taken to a local hospital and emergency room doctors recognized the rash as a telltale symptom of meningococcemia. They rushed him to isolation where he was placed on antibiotics. Despite doctors’ efforts, Braden went into cardiac arrest and lost his battle to meningococcal disease just 17 hours after the initial onset of symptoms.

“I didn’t know about meningococcal disease before it struck my son,” said Suzanne “I encourage parents to educate themselves about this disease and speak to their children’s healthcare providers about vaccination.”