NMA Advocates in Connecticut

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Ryan Hockensmith


T.E.A.M. member (survived at age 21 years)

In the fall of 1999, Ryan Hockensmith was a 21-year-old student at Penn State University studying journalism. At the end of October, he experienced a headache, neck pain and excruciating pain in his feet. Soon after arriving at a local hospital, he was transported by helicopter to Penn State Hershey Medical Center. During that trip, he was placed in a medically induced coma. Ryan was diagnosed with meningococcal meningitis and remained comatose for a week, missing his 22nd birthday. He survived, but his hands and feet were permanently damaged.

Ryan spent a month in the hospital, including a week in rehabilitation, where he learned to walk and use his hands all over again. After enduring multiple toe amputations, he eventually had the front ends of both feet removed. His size-12 foot is now a size-5.

Ryan returned to Penn State University and graduated in 2001. He is now a deputy editor at espnW. He lives in Connecticut with his wife and three daughters, and is dedicated to educating others about meningitis and its prevention.

Francesca Testa


T.E.A.M. member (survived at age 17 years)

Just after Easter in 2006, Francesca’s mom found her motionless in bed with purplish spots on her face, wrists and legs. Francesca had been feeling sick with a fever for a few weeks. She had seen a doctor earlier that day and asked if it might be meningitis, but was told it was just the flu. At the hospital doctors gave Francesca a 20 percent chance of survival. She beat the odds, but needed intensive physical therapy to return to normal activities, which included competitive swimming. Francesca still has long-term complications.

Francesca is working with NMA to educate others on the importance of vaccination and to help them recognize the signs and symptoms of meningitis so they can seek immediate treatment.