On April 24th it’s World Meningitis Day! It’s an important day to bring awareness of meningitis as a global effort. People all over the world are sharing stories of their experience, loved ones they’ve lost, and how we can learn from our experience to spread awareness of the preventable disease. To some meningitis is only known as a vaccine that is suggested at their doctors office or sometimes it’s mandatory for students to receive it. A lot of the time, people are unaware of this disease and what it could lead to. I was that person. As an adolescent, I remember camp asking about certain vaccines that I would have to get before attending and meningitis was one of them. The meningitis vaccine weans after 5 years so when I was attending college, I was left unprotected. In college, you’re more likely to spread germs and bacteria due to our social interactions with one another. From coughing, kissing, sharing drinks, chap sticks, cigarettes, not washing hands etc.! Believe it or not parents, this occurs in children and young adolescents and if their left unvaccinated then there’s a chance that they could catch this disease! “But what if I choose to not have my child injected with vaccines?” I can identify a couple reasons why that can be controversial. First off, leaving your child unprotected is another attempt at Russian roulette with your child’s life. You don’t want to be setting funeral plans because you didn’t accept the vaccination. I have met families that have been in this position. At your doctor’s office when it is suggested, please demand for the two different vaccines that work together to fight off meningitis – the A, C, W, Y vaccine and the B vaccine. When you’re at your doctor’s office and they don’t suggest it, please ask about the vaccines that your children are suggested to have and demand to receive them. I walked into college campus, unvaccinated, and I was at a higher risk of catching the disease and I didn’t know it. I had a 20% chance of survival, the doctor told me. I am grateful to see where I am now; Sharing my story, spreading the potential terrors of contracting this disease. I just want everyone to know what I know now. I saw my limbs decay right in front of me within a few short days, and I was incapable of moving on my own until I was leaving the hospital 7 months later. It’s was a horrific experience. I saw my hands turn into mittens and I had to learn how to use them. From using utensils to eat and to write, to putting on clothes, opening things, and even picking up items. They all proved to be difficult. After my amputations, I saw my bones extending out from where my fingers were, I felt the pain and adjustments from being amputated. I wouldn’t move an inch and it felt horrible. And I was told to live my life again. ‘Ummm how am I suppose to do that?” I thought.
Living life as a disable citizen definitely has ups and downs. I currently live my life to the fullest. My friends, family, and myself don’t see me as someone who is “handicapped.” Today I can open and utilize objects fluidly. Yes, I may do it differently or ask for assistance, but I feel no different from the average person most of the time.
My never-giving-up mentality held up strong because of the tough love I received. There were plenty of times that I didn’t want to do my physical therapy or go to school, but knew I needed to do it to become independent again. I felt embarrassed and unacquainted to my new stigma life. It was hard to blend in with society at first but now life is great and I have fun everywhere I go. Sounds cliché, I know. Looking back, I still can’t believe that I went through everything that I did, and I am glad to have survived. It was a roller coaster of emotions and physical strength but I was able to come out on top as a meningitis survivor and so much more.
Looking into the future, I feel confident with where my life is going. Did you know I got engaged this year? We’re also building house!? At times I find myself in doubt that I’m at this stage in my life but here I am, and hear me roar! I am grateful for the life I am in and that I get to lead on my own and with my love beside me. Meningitis almost took me down and took me away from all of these possibilities. I know I lost my limbs to this disease and I will always have health issues that revolve around this, but I am glad to be a survivor and to tell my story. Don’t let the decision to be unvaccinated to take this all away from you or someone you love. Everyone deserves a great life and I am glad that I am able to live it. But I was lucky.