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 twice as an amputee (2009 & 2015). “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.”
See more from Mike
- Parents Who Protect blog – Ben Diamond: Why Meningitis Advocacy Matters to Me (written by Mike’s friend, Ben)