Meningitis nearly killed my healthy child: What parents need to know

(BPT) - GSK spokesperson Patsy Schanbaum’s daughter, Jamie, was a college freshman when she contracted meningococcal disease, also known as meningitis.

“I got the call that every parent hopes they never get — their child has been hospitalized and it’s an emergency. By the time I got to the hospital that night, Jamie was in an induced coma, fighting for her life.”

Jamie was diagnosed with meningitis and, to help stop the spread of the disease, the doctors amputated both legs below the knee and her fingers.

“Giving the go-ahead to the doctors to amputate her limbs was probably the most difficult decision I’ve ever had to make as a mother, but it was the only way to help save her life,” Patsy said.

Early symptoms of meningitis may be similar to those of a cold or the flu. The disease can progress quickly and be fatal, sometimes within 24 hours.1 One in 10 of those who contract it will die, and one in five will suffer long-term consequences, such as loss of limbs, like Jamie.2

“My daughter was fortunate to survive meningitis, but others may not be so lucky, and it shouldn’t be because of a lack of education. As a mother, I feel it is important for parents to educate themselves about the disease and the vaccines available by speaking with their teen’s doctor about it.”

There are two different types of vaccines and both are needed to help protect against the five vaccine-preventable groups of meningitis – A, C, W, Y and B.7

Anyone can get meningitis, but adolescents and young adults are at an increased risk for meningitis due to behaviors like living in close quarters, sharing drinks or eating utensils, kissing or coughing.3,4,5,6 Serogroup B has been responsible for 100 percent of US college outbreaks of meningococcal disease from 2011 through March 2019, which involved 13 campuses, 50 cases and 2 deaths among an at-risk population of approximately 253,000 students.3

“I stayed by Jamie’s side for seven months while she recovered. Together we worked to physically and emotionally adapt to a new lifestyle. The journey to recovery was difficult, and at certain points I even felt helpless, but we made it through as a family.”

Jamie, also a GSK spokesperson, and Patsy founded The J.A.M.I.E. Group to help educate parents about the impact of meningitis and available vaccinations.

“I want to ensure no family ever has to go through what mine did.”

Today, Patsy feels empowered as a mother, advocate and spokesperson for GSK, sharing her family’s story to educate parents, teens and young adults about the potential dangers of meningitis and the types of vaccines available to help prevent it.

Vaccine-preventable diseases, such as meningitis, continue to impact our communities, including schools and college campuses. Before your kids head back to school for the spring semester, schedule a wellness visit to talk to their doctor about the two different types of meningitis vaccines needed to help protect against the five vaccine-preventable groups of meningitis – A, C, W, Y and B.7 Vaccination may not protect all recipients.

For more information, visit http://www.meningitisb.com.

Content sponsored by GSK.



[1] CDC. Meningococcal Disease: Signs and Symptoms: Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/meningococcal/about/symptoms.html

[2] CDC. Meningococcal Disease: Clinical Information. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/meningococcal/clinical-info.html.

[3] Marshall GS, Dempsey AF, Srivastava, Isturiz RE. US college students are at increased risk for serogroup B meningococcal disease. JPIDS. 2019:1-4.

[4] CDC. Manual for the Surveillance of Vaccine-Preventable Diseases: Chapter 8: Meningococcal Disease. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/pubs/surv-manual/chpt08-mening.html.

[5] CDC. Meningococcal Disease: Causes and Spread to Others. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/meningococcal/about/causes-transmission.html.

[6] Larimer County. Meningococcal Disease. Available at: larimer.org/health/communicable-disease/meningococcal-disease

[7] CDC. Meningococcal Vaccination: What Everyone Should Know. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd/mening/public/index.html.

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