Our beautiful 22 year old daughter Nicole was born in Cedar Rapids IA on August 1, 1981 and died May 10, 2004 from bacterial meningitis. College graduation & finals were drawing near and Nicki was fighting a cold. To relieve some stress, she went out with her friends on a Saturday night. Sunday morning she did not feel well and thus our nightmare began. Nicki called us the morning of Mother’s Day to say that she had a headache, sore throat, ached all over and had a temperature of 100.8°. We advised her to see a doctor but she felt it was the flu and just wanted to rest. Early evening, her boyfriend called to say that she was much worse and needed to go to the hospital. She fought us in our attempt to get her out of bed because her body ached – it hurt just to touch her. We noticed a purple spot about the size of a dime on her middle finger but she had no idea of its cause.
Nicki needed a wheelchair upon our hospital arrival. Her color was pale and her face carried a blank expression. Once in the examination room, Nicki could not lay still, she was in constant motion with pain, her breathing was labored, her feet were very cold and the purple spot on the tip of her finger now engulfed her entire finger.
The doctor suspected meningitis and wanted to do a spinal tap. The result of the tap was negative and the doctor feared it was bacterial meningitis that had possibly spread into her blood system and her chances of survival would be slim.
Our world fell apart. The doctor said that the next 24 hours would be the most critical and again stressed the dangers and fatality rate of the disease that had invaded her bloodstream so quickly. We noticed also that the purple rash had now spread to other areas of her body. We later learned that this rash (septicemia) is a result of the poison destroying her veins and the blood seeping out under the skin.
We were hanging on to dear life and it was slipping away rapidly. Nicki’s eyes were beginning to roll back into her head and she was not responding to our voice or touch. She took one big breath and then no more. They immediately began CPR. After several attempts of reviving Nicki, the doctor told us the disease was overpowering her heart and shutting down other organs as well. They eventually discontinued CPR and our precious daughter was gone just six hours after we had brought her in. She died within 15 hours of the onset of this relentless disease.
As with most other meningitis cases, we have no idea how she contracted it, but we suspect that since her immune system was weakened from her cold that she was more susceptible. The doctors told us not to blame ourselves for not seeking treatment earlier. Bacterial meningitis symptoms mimic the flu and she would probably have been sent home with some antibiotics. We were not aware that a vaccine was available to help prevent this. We can only hope that as time goes on and research and training improves, that doctors will readily promote the vaccine and be able to recognize and treat the disease immediately with positive results. No other child or family should suffer the effects of this fast-moving illness. If we had known about the vaccine, our daughter would be celebrating life today.
Many days have gone by and the empty hole in our heart will never mend. Please immunize your loved ones because there is no getting over the loss of a child.