Archive | January, 2012

Moms on a Mission

28 Jan

Moms are great motivators, especially when there is something that affects the health and well-being of their children.  I am a mom on a mission.  I always thought I was already, from the day my sons were born.  I took them to their regular doctor visits, we had wonderful, memory-filled days and years of soccer, baseball, and basketball.  Just thinking about those days brings a smile to my face.  It was great family time.  But I didn’t realize what a MOM on a MISSION really meant, until my son died from a vaccine-preventable disease.  My life flipped upside down, my heart will never recover.  I became determined to be a MOM on a MISSION to educate all parents about vaccine-preventable diseases, not just meningitis.  No child should suffer from a vaccine-preventable disease, when there are safe vaccines to potentially prevent the disease.  These are our children, our legacy, the loves of our lives.  I urge all moms to join me as a MOM on a MISSION and not only make sure your children are protected, but your extended circle as well.  The more we talk, the more children will be vaccinated.  There is no stopping a MOM on a MISSION.

A Parent is a parent, no matter how old the child

25 Jan

Since I lost my 20 year old son over 13 years ago, I have talked to or met families who have lost children to meningitis from 2 month olds to now a 60 year old. Imagine being lucky enough to live long enough to have a 60 year old son, only to have him pass away in hours from bacterial meningitis.  I know the pain I felt losing my son, and no matter what age you lose your child, it is just so devastating.  You can’t love your child any more than you do at 2 months versus 20  years versus 60 years; you have just had the blessing of spending more time with your child.  I can honestly say there is really no getting over the loss of a child.  You don’t cry as much, but the memories of the horrible days we spent as our son lay dying, will haunt us forever.  Meningitis is relentless and unforgiving.  It attacks and destroys, many times before you’ve had a chance to fight.  So, for all parents, with children of any age, please make sure that your children are vaccinated.  We can all learn from this tragic death of this prominent 60 year old, that no one is immune.

Simple Shot Could Have Saved Son’s Life

17 Jan

Gail Bailey is part of the National Meningitis Association “Moms on Meningitis” program — a sisterhood that none of us ever wanted to join, because all of us have either lost children to bacterial meningitis or had our children survive, but with severe disabilities.   I wanted to share an editorial that Gail wrote:

She is very eloquent, and like all of us, very sad.  Please make sure your children are protected.

If Only …..

16 Jan


I always hear people, including myself, start a sentence with “If only …”  I have a lot of “if only”s.

If only we hadn’t moved from California to Georgia, if only Evan had picked another college, if only he had transferred to the university his younger brother attended, if only he hadn’t been on the college baseball team, if only I hadn’t listened to the ER docs when they told me Evan just had a little virus, and if only I had had Evan vaccinated against meningitis.  All of the “if only”s won’t change what happened, but it can change what happens for other families.


Vaccines are a wonderful miracle which have saved countless lives.  Parents need to make sure their children are vaccinated according to CDC recommendations and on schedule.  All of us want to do what’s right and what’s best for our children, but often we get too busy with day to day events, that we neglect routine physician visits, and therefore neglect to get our children needed vaccines.


Life doesn’t always happen the way you think it will, and I don’t want anyone else spending the rest of their life thinking “if only.”

My Thoughts on “Good intentions with serious consequences”

13 Jan

As a mom who lost her 20 year old college son to bacterial meningitis, I had mixed feelings when recently reading a news story about requiring meningitis vaccination for college-age students: Meningitis vaccine:  Good intentions with serious consequences. After reaching out to the journalist who wrote this, I thought I’d also post my response here for you to understand a parent’s perspective on this matter. Find my thoughts below and let me know your thoughts on this in the comments section.


As President of the National Meningitis Association, and more importantly, as a mom who lost her 20 year old college son to bacterial meningitis, I had mixed feelings when I read your story.

I didn’t know about the vaccine, or that the disease is potentially vaccine-preventable, and it cost me the life of my son.  This was 13 years ago, and awareness of meningitis is much higher now, mostly due to the work of our organization.  Looking back, I would have spent every penny I had to pay for that vaccine, had  I just known about it.

I think the colleges and universities need to come up with a policy that will allow students to attend while their names are on a waiting list for the lower cost vaccines, for those who qualify under Vaccines for Children or for state-assisted aid.  For most other families, health insurance will cover the cost of the vaccine.

Meningitis is a rare disease, but when it strikes, it is deadly.  When you’re in the hospital for 26 days, having had both arms and legs amputated, losing kidney and liver function, and having 10 hours of grand mal seizures, your parents don’t care if you’re an honor student, pre-med, and pitcher on your college baseball team.  All they are praying for is for you to recover.  That’s what this vaccine can potentially do – save lives, save heartache.

The families that worked to get this vaccine legislation passed are to be commended.  The Schanbaums work with our organization.  They are lucky, because Jamie survived.   The other family lost a son, and I am sure they feel as I do.  There is no getting over the loss of a child.

From China, with Love

10 Jan

We’ve been spending a  few days with my husband’s brother, his wife, and their 9 year old daughter.  Alyson was adopted from China about 5 ½ years ago, when she was almost 4.  My brother-in-law and his wife were not sure they wanted children, so Alyson didn’t join their family until they were both over 50.  You can imagine what a lifestyle change it was for all of them!  I look at this beautiful little girl, so loved and nurtured, and think about what her life was like before she was adopted.  She came from a good orphanage, but still, there was a lack of basic healthcare.  Alyson now has all of the recommended vaccines and will grow up to be a healthy child.  I think about all of the other children in foreign countries with no access to health care, and then I think about the parents in the U.S. who deny their children access to vaccinations for reasons not based on science.  How can we let our children potentially suffer from vaccine-preventable diseases?  We are so lucky that we live in a country with access to these life-saving vaccines.  I hope that all parents will make sure to take advantage of vaccines, and give their children all of the love and protection that they can.

A Brother, A Son, A Father

6 Jan

by Dr. Ryan Bozof

All three of those describe me.  I am a brother to Evan Bozof, who lost his life to bacterial meningitis at the age of 20.  Being just 13 months apart in age, I not only lost my brother, I lost my best friend.  Evan and I both wanted to be doctors, and his passing made me more determined to make that dream come through, for both of us.  The day I graduated med school, I said a silent “We did it” to my brother.  I can only hope that he heard.  I grieved terribly after my brother died, and I could see that pain mirrored in my parents’ faces.  I felt vulnerable, because if something happened to me, then my parents would have no one.  When my parents would break down in tears, I was helpless to ease their pain. All of a sudden, I was an “only child,” but had not been brought up as an only child.   I could only understand my grief at losing a brother, and that grief was devastating.  But,  now that I am a parent to three healthy children, I can better understand my parents’ grief and  the fear of  a parent losing a child.   As a doctor, I encourage all of my patients to stay current with their immunizations.  I know the consequences that can happen when you don’t, or when you don’t know that a vaccine is available.   There is just so much outside of our control, but we can take advantage of vaccines.  They are medical miracles, and parents who don’t vaccinate or who don’t vaccinate according to the recommended schedule are not only endangering their children, they are endangering the lives of other children.  My brother didn’t get a second chance, to go back and get vaccinated for meningitis.  When he died, he was gone.  As parents, siblings, sons, we need to all do our part in being healthy, and vaccinations are important for people in every age group, from infants through the elderly.  Make sure that the people you care about are protected.

College Students Need to be Vaccinated Too

5 Jan

Thank you to Christine Vara at Shot of Prevention for an important post on the need for college students to receive the meningococcal vaccine.  She writes:

Shots aren’t just for babies.

In fact, it is recommended that children receive booster shots for various preventable diseases throughout their adolescent years.  And recently, since bacterial meningitis has proven to be a serious, sometimes fatal, disease that is easily spread on college campuses, several states have begun requiring a meningitis vaccine for college students living in dorms.  However, as a direct result of Senate Bill 1107, the state of Texas has now taken these precautions one step further. As of January 1st, a new law has taken effect that makes Texas the first state to require a bacterial meningitis vaccine for all college students under the age of 30, even if they are not living on campus.

You can read the full post here and view the stories of some of our advocates.

“Basketball Jones”

3 Jan

by Lori Buher, NMA Board Member

“Basketball Jones” is a song from the ‘70’s.  We used to play it on the cassette player in our mini-van as we drove our youngest to his AAU basketball games.  It was a funny little “good luck charm” that we enjoyed perpetuating.  Carl loves basketball.  He started playing as a kindergartener on the local YMCA team.  He was always the tallest on the floor.  Back then he couldn’t tie his shoes too well so he’d lope from one end of the mini-court to the other, shoelaces flying.  We have so many good memories of those basketball days.  As a 9th grader, Carl was setting himself up for a college career in basketball.  Maybe he wouldn’t play “Division One”, but he’d be playing somewhere.  It helped that he has always been an academic kid too, so his grades were good and it was important to him that he maintain the 4.0 GPA he’d been accustomed to in middle school.  Carl’s dreams and ours changed when he was infected with the bacteria that cause meningococcal meningitis.  This vaccine preventable disease ravaged his body, forcing the eventual amputation of both legs below the knees and fingers on both hands.  “Forget about basketball Mom” he told me as we sat together in his hospital room.  I’d lived with him at the Seattle hospitals where they brought him back from almost certain death for several months when he said that to me.  It was a very difficult time, and for years, as his body and spirit recovered, we did forget about basketball.

Carl was stricken in 2003.  He graduated from college last May and is job searching now.   His old basketball coach called him not too long ago and asked if Carl would help coach the youngest high school basketball players this season.  We were so pleased to hear him agree to take that risk, and to witness how much he is enjoying the position.  One of the other coaches told me that he was honored to have Carl serving as such a fine role model to the student-athletes.  It is an honor for Carl too and a lesson; dreams can change, but you don’t necessarily have to give up your life’s passions when a small bacterium puts a huge roadblock in your way.

Carl will tell you he is a better person for having suffered and survived meningococcal meningitis.  I will tell you that this was a road filled with unnecessary suffering.  If I had known a vaccine was available for Carl that was safe and effective, I would have chosen it over this journey.  Parents need to learn the facts of this disease and what the cost of choosing not to vaccinate might be.  Get educated and have your children vaccinated!