NMA Advocates in New York

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Eilleen Boyle

New York

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

Caitlin Boyle

Eilleen’s daughter Caitlin was a 19-year-old college student when she began feeling ill. She had a headache and neck pain, but Eilleen thought Caitlin couldn’t have meningitis because she had been vaccinated. Within hours, Caitlin was on a respirator, and after two days in a coma, she passed away from B strain meningococcal disease. Eilleen didn’t know that current meningitis vaccines, which cover most strains, do not prevent B strain disease. She is working with the National Meningitis Association to ensure others know about meningitis symptoms and vaccine coverage. She also hopes that vaccines with broader protection will one day be available.

Natasha Davis

New York

T.E.A.M. member ; sister of Rhett (age 20 years)

See Susan Davis (Florida).

Susan’s son, Rhett was a witty, fun-loving and intelligent college student who tragically lost his life in November 2006 to meningococcal disease, a serious, yet vaccine-preventable bacterial infection. Rhett had come home for Thanksgiving break to spend time with his family. Rhett returned to school on Monday to take his finals and to go on a scheduled snowboarding trip with friends before Christmas. However, after returning to school Rhett became ill with flu-like symptoms. Three days later, on a Thursday, Rhett passed away alone in his college apartment. The autopsy revealed Rhett had died from acute bacterial meningitis.


Molly DeJourdan

New York

M.O.M. of Kentin (age 1 year)

Kentin Davis

Molly DeJourdan’s son Kentin was a vibrant one-year-old when he tragically lost his life to meningococcal disease. The day after celebrating his first birthday, Kentin began acting fussy after dinner and felt warm. Molly discovered he was running a fever, and gave him Tylenol before putting him to bed for the night with a fever of only 100.2. The next day he was barely conscious. Kentin was immediately rushed to the emergency room where he was diagnosed with meningococcal disease. Doctors administered antibiotics to stop the spread of infection, but told Molly that Kentin’s condition was very serious. However, the next day, Kentin’s organs began to fail and he passed away in his father’s arms.

“It is important for parents to educate themselves about meningococcal disease and to be aware of its symptoms,” said Molly. “I encourage parents to talk to their child’s health care provider about vaccination and whether their children are at risk for this devastating disease.”


Paige Kach

New York

M.O.M. of John (survived at age 19 years)

John Kach

One day in March 2000, Paige got the phone call every mother dreads: a hospital physician called to say her son John, a college freshman, had been diagnosed with meningococcemia. Paige knew that there was a vaccine available to protect against the disease, but was unable to locate it for John before left for college. As a result of the disease, doctors had to amputate both of John’s legs below the knee and all his fingers. John survived these obstacles to graduate from Salve Regina University and is currently developing his public speaking skills to share his story with others.


Mike LaForgia

New York

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.”


Marybeth Leeber

New York

M.O.M. of Lauren (survived at age 4 years)

Lauren Leeber

The morning before Halloween, Marybeth’s daughter Lauren had a fever and was lethargic so she brought her to the doctor. The doctor told Marybeth to take her home to rest. Once home, Lauren was vomiting and her fever was getting higher. When a purplish rash began to develop, Marybeth called her pediatrician again who told her to bring Lauren to the hospital immediately. Once at the hospital, doctors administered antibiotics but Lauren’s kidneys began to fail and she was having trouble breathing. Lauren was placed in a coma for two weeks, and doctors had to amputate Lauren’s right hand, the fingertips on her left hand and both her legs below the knee in order to save her life. Months later, Lauren underwent a kidney transplant due to complications from the disease.

“We are very fortunate that Lauren survived this disease, since so many families are not as lucky,” said Marybeth. “Parents need to be aware of meningococcal disease and speak with their health care providers about protecting their children through vaccination.”


Peter Purdy

New York

T.E.A.M. Member (survived at age 67)

One morning 10 years ago, Peter woke up feeling very ill. By that evening he was in a coma. Peter’s wife took him to the ER at a small rural hospital. Although meningococcal disease is often misdiagnosed, Peter was fortunate that the ER staff recognized its symptoms and began treatment. Nonetheless, Peter lost both my legs to the disease, beginning a new chapter in his life as an amputee.

Peter’s work was in health, and yet he knew nothing about this disease or its potential prevention. Peter strongly supports the work of NMA which continues to reach out across the country to educate others so they won’t have a story like his.


Nick Springer

New York

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.


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.


Heather Tufano

New York

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

Heather Tufano was an 18 year old freshman attending college in New York City when she contracted Meningococcemia. Her symptoms began at 11 o’clock at night with fever, chills and pain in her joints, so extreme that she could not walk. By early the next morning a black and blue rash spread quickly all over her legs. She was immediately brought to the intensive care unit at a local hospital to find out she had a 5% chance of living that night.

Heather was in the hospital for 3 months and underwent roughly 8 surgeries, including the amputation of her right foot and 2 fingers. Once she left the hospital, Heather had to learn how to walk again by going to physical therapy for several months. Since she left the hospital in January of 2005, Heather returned to school and has now graduated college. She joined NMA to educate and create awareness about the signs and symptoms of Meningococcal disease.

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