NMA Advocates in Florida

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Mike and Charlene Barnes


Parents of Jimmy, Age 20

Jimmy Barnes

Mike and Charlene’s son, Jimmy, was a popular, athletic and funny 20-year-old when he lost his life to serogroup B meningococcal disease. One morning, he woke up in terrible pain and an ambulance rushed him to the emergency room. Mike went to the hospital to find his son suffering from back pain, numb legs and arms, stiff neck and a fever of 103. Jimmy was diagnosed with the flu and sent home.

The next morning, Jimmy developed a rash all over his body. When Mike and Charlene urged Jimmy to go back to the hospital, he insisted on staying home in bed to recover. That was the last time they spoke. He was gone in 28 hours.

Vaccines recommended at the time covered most strains of the disease, but did not cover serogroup B disease. There are now vaccines available for serogroup B. Today, Mike and Charlene educate others about prevention and work to increase awareness of available vaccines to help protect other families from this devastating disease.

Abby Blanco-Wold


T.E.A.M. member (Survived at age 22 years)

Days before she was scheduled to start basic training for the U.S. Army, Abby woke up with body aches, which she attributed to her new exercise routine. Later that night, while out with friends, she had a slight headache but it wasn’t until she began vomiting that she knew something was wrong. The next morning, Abby felt a searing pain when a friend touched her arm to wake her up and noticed a rash all over her stomach. She was rushed to the ER.

By the time Abby reached the hospital, she could no longer walk on her own. She was immediately diagnosed with meningococcemia and treated with antibiotics. Abby’s kidneys failed, she went into respiratory arrest and spent two and a half weeks in a coma. She survived but both of her legs and some of her fingers were amputated.

Abby was not vaccinated, but was scheduled to get vaccinated at basic training. She is currently pursuing a master’s degree in public health and educates others about meningococcal disease and the importance of prevention.

“Sadly, at the time I got sick the vaccine was not recommended for my age group,” says Abby. “Now there are effective vaccines against meningococcal disease. Please get your family vaccinated!”

Susan Davis


M.O.M. of Rhett (age 20 years)

Rhett Davis

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.

“This is a tragedy that could have been prevented. A mother can’t protect her child from everything but you can prevent against bacterial meningitis. It is important to be educated about the symptoms of meningococcal disease and have your children vaccinated.” – Susan Davis

Rhett’s sister, Patricia Reilly, is a T.E.A.M. member.

Terri Martin Finethy


M.O.M. of Alan (age 21 years)

Alan Martin

Terri Martin never suspected such a rare, yet potentially fatal, infection could strike her 21-year-old son Alan, an identical twin and talented musician. After being on the road for five weeks with his band, Alan went to the emergency room in Tallahassee with a fever, headache and chills. Alan was examined by a nurse and sent home with a suspected case of bronchitis. Later that evening, Alan returned to the E.R. with intense pain and a purple rash that was spreading quickly across his torso. Sadly, Alan died of meningococcal disease only hours after Terri arrived at the hospital. Although she had heard of the infection, Terri was not aware that it could have been potentially prevented through vaccination.

Donna Lufkin


M.O.M. of Samantha (Survived at age 9 months)

Donna’s daughter Samantha Bennett was a healthy 9-month-old baby when she contracted meningococcal disease. Donna thought Sam had the flu but when her fever worsened and a purplish rash appeared on her arm, she knew something was seriously wrong. She rushed her firstborn to the emergency room.

Doctors recognized the symptoms of the potentially fatal bacterial infection and did everything they could to save her life. Sam survived, but remained in the hospital for six months undergoing multiple surgeries. Her skin was permanently scarred, her nose damaged, and several fingers and toes were amputated.

Over the past 39 years, Sam has undergone 30 surgeries and still deals with pain on a daily basis. Today, Sam is an artist and a mom of two adorable boys – Donna is a doting grandmother.

Before Sam contracted meningococcal disease, Donna had never heard about it. She and her daughter are both dedicated to raising awareness about the disease, its signs and symptoms and available vaccines.

Cathy Mayfield


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

Lawson Mayfield

Cathy’s daughter Lawson was a vibrant 18-year-old. After a day of horseback riding, she went to bed early with a headache. Cathy assumed she was overly tired, but later became concerned because Lawson was very sluggish. Cathy took Lawson to the hospital. Though she did not have a fever or rash, Lawson became increasingly lethargic and sensitive to light. Doctors ordered a spinal tap which confirmed meningitis. Despite treatment, Lawson passed away from what Cathy later learned was pneumococcal meningitis.

Cathy works with NMA to raise awareness about the dangers and prevention of bacterial meningitis. She feels it’s critical for communities to know about the symptoms of all types of bacterial meningitis and wants to help educate others about recommended meningococcal vaccinations which can prevent the majority of bacterial meningitis cases in adolescents.

Pedro Pimenta


T.E.A.M. member (Survived at age 18)

On September 11, 2009, Pedro, a healthy, social and athletic teenager, suddenly began to feel sick. He thought it was the flu. When his symptoms progressed, his brother rushed him to the hospital where he was diagnosed with the flu and told to go home and rest.

The next day, he woke up with a purplish rash all over his body. He was rushed to the hospital again where he was diagnosed with meningococcal disease. His family and friends were told there was only a slim chance he would survive.

Pedro spent the next six months in the hospital and went through two comas. He survived, but had all of his limbs amputated above the elbows and knees. Just ten months after leaving the hospital, he was fully functioning using prosthetics for mobility and practicality.

His family was shocked when they found out this disease is potentially vaccine preventable. Today he educates others about the disease and its prevention.

Thomas Smith


T.E.A.M member (survived at age 29 years)