NMA Advocates in Ohio

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Samantha Bennett


T.E.A.M. member (survived at age 9 months)

At 9 months old, Sam contracted meningococcal disease. Her mom thought she had the flu but when her condition worsened, she knew something was seriously wrong and rushed her 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 her skin was permanently scarred, her nose damaged, and several fingers and toes were amputated. In spite of these challenges, Sam has gone on to start a family and works as an artist. She is dedicated to raising awareness about meningococcal disease and the importance of prevention.

“Make the most of every chance you have, especially if you have a chance to encourage change someone’s life for the better.”

Lacey Harris-Willoby


M.O.M. of Landan (age 3 years)

Landan Harris

Lacey’s 3-year-old son, Landan, was a sweet, healthy, and active little boy when he contracted a potentially deadly, yet vaccine-preventable bacterial infection known as meningococcal disease. On November 14, 2006, Landan was cranky, acting lethargic and complaining of a sore throat. When Lacey put her son to bed that night, she assumed he was just suffering from a cold. However, the next morning, Lacey noticed purple blotches all over Landan’s body. Lacey’s mother told her to call 911 immediately. As soon as Landan arrived at the hospital, doctors diagnosed him with meningococcal disease and told Lacey that her son had a 10 percent chance of survival. Despite the doctors’ efforts to save his life, Landan’s heart stopped, and he passed away only twenty-three hours after arriving at the hospital.

“Minutes matter because meningococcal disease progresses so quickly,” said Lacey. “Parents need to know that the best way to protect their children from this devastating disease is through vaccination.”

Maggie Heath-Bourne


T.E.A.M. Member (survived at age 6 years)

Maggie was six years old when she developed flu-like symptoms and pain in her arms and legs. Her parents rushed her to the closest hospital, where she was diagnosed with meningococcal meningitis. She was placed in a medically-induced coma for two weeks, was put on a ventilator and given a feeding tube. When her kidneys failed, she was brought out of the coma and moved to the renal unit. She received dialysis treatment until her kidneys fully recovered, several weeks later.

As a result of the infection, three of her toes and her left heel were amputated. Her left calf was removed to replace her heel. She was released from the hospital after six weeks, and underwent physical therapy to learn to walk again. During that time, her Achilles tendon in her left leg snapped. She had to use a wheelchair, walker and eventually a leg brace, which she wore until she was 12 years old.

She will eventually need a double ankle replacement. Maggie currently works as an editor at her university’s newspaper, and is dedicated to raising awareness about meningococcal disease and the importance of prevention. She feels very fortunate to have survived and come out of the experience relatively unscathed. Her doctors briefly talked about amputating her feet, and she knows that even that is mild compared to what the disease is capable of doing.

Cindy Krejny


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

Erin Krejny

Cindy Krejny’s daughter, Erin, was just days away from her 19th birthday when she lost her life to meningococcal disease. One afternoon, Erin began feeling sick and complained to her friends of numbness in her arms and legs and a stiff neck. The next day, Cindy received a phone call from her daughter’s friends saying Erin was at the hospital with the flu. Cindy and her husband Tom called the hospital and were told they should come immediately. The hospital was three hours away. By the time they arrived, Erin had died. Heartbroken and confused, the Krejny’s were told their daughter had a rare, serious bacterial infection called meningococcal disease. Most tragically, they learned too late that vaccination could have helped prevent the disease and save their daughter’s life.

“Meningococcal disease attacks so fast, is so deadly and is so dangerous,” said Cindy. “That’s why prevention through vaccination is so important.”

Krista Whitson


M.O.M. of Tess (age 5 years)

Tess Whitson

Krista Whitson’s 5-year-old daughter, Tess, was an active and happy young girl when she contracted a dangerous and deadly form of bacterial meningitis known as meningococcal disease, in March 1999. One morning in March, Tess told Krista that she was too sick to go to school, which was unusual because she loved going to school and playing with her friends. By that evening, the purplish rash had spread onto Tess’ torso. Unfortunately, the disease had spread too quickly and caused too much damage to save Tess’ life.