A Teary Day That Never Ends

17 Mar

I try to block it out.  I try to keep busy.  But it won’t go away.   It will never go away.  I think I am doing okay, and then something triggers the waterfall of tears.  Shouldn’t they all be gone by now?  It’s been almost 16 years, but the tears will never be gone.  I look at a picture of my two sons, taken just a few months before Evan died from meningococcal disease.

Evan and Ryan, 1997

Evan and Ryan, 1997

I think, I wish, that I had more pictures.  How was I to know that I missed opportunities to capture the special bond between two brothers who loved each other more than you can believe?  I thought I had a lifetime for pictures, for memories, but I didn’t.  And now, I can’t go back and get more pictures.  I have to live with the memories and what pictures I have.  I share the picture with my daughter-in-law, who never knew Evan.  She is angry that this disease took away her chance to meet her husband’s brother and for her children to have Uncle Evan around.  My husband and I just want our son back, and it will never happen.  My family will never be complete.

Never forget how precious this life is.

5 Jan

kasey's_picture_of_kimIt’s not always the parents, children, and siblings who grieve when someone is lost.  Sometimes friends, in-laws, and others share in the grief.  My daughter-in-law did not even know my son who died, but she grieves his loss, nevertheless.  The poignant words below were written by Kimberly Coffey’s sister-in-law.  Her words resonated with me, and I hope they do with you as well.

This weekend would be the 19th birthday on Earth of my beautiful sister-in-law Kimberly Coffey.

I would like to use this post to talk about how precious and amazing our lives are. We are here on Earth for a blip, the blink of an eye; let’s always make sure we use that time to LIVE, REALLY LIVE. I know, I know it is easy to sit at your computer screen and read this post and say I will! But, really, get out there. Incredible sunrises, beautiful sunsets and full bright, beautiful days await you; every day is a new chance to do whatever you want to do. No matter your circumstances, no matter where you live do what you can to make every day count. Smile at strangers, laugh at jokes, don’t let the negativity get to you. Be the brightest light in the room. Shine, shine, shine. Be kind and love unconditionally. Give second chances Do what you can to show your family you ADORE them. Paradise may await us after this life, but we have a pretty little bit of paradise here on Earth, don’t we? Celebrate your chance to breathe this air, celebrate every second you have with the people, animals and the land you love. Know that every day is a new beginning. Get outside every day and thank whatever or whoever put us here. You are incredible. You can change the world, your world, a little bit. Get out there and do it. I have faith in you.

Kim’s life on Earth was bright beyond belief. She brightened the lives of people around her every single day. When her life here was cut short by a rare (no vaccine is available yet) strain of Meningitis, our world was devastated, shaken to the core. I had the incredible chance of knowing her for a small bit of time and I cherish every memory I have of her. She was hysterically funny, incredibly smart and a shining beacon of love and life; so much life in such a young girl. I try to live like her every day. She was confident, beautiful and kind.

Even though Kim was vaccinated against Meningitis, there exists no vaccine for the B-strain which she caught on an off-chance. However, the other strains of Meningitis are a REAL threat and there is a vaccine for these strains. Meningitis attacks and kills bright lights like Kim every single day. Meningitis can kill in under 24 hours with no symptoms more than those of influenza. The importance of this vaccine is undeniable. You can save your life, and the lives of others (if you’re a carrier, others can contract it from you). Honor my gorgeous sister-in-law’s life (and birthday) and get vaccinated.

Get involved with the National Meningitis Association however you can and donate whatever you have (even a dollar will do) to help them get the word out about the dangers involved with meningococcal disease. Thank you in advance, please spread the word. Honor Kim and her incredible life.

We love you Kim, Happy Birthday!

They lost their daughters to Meningitis B – Read Their Stories

21 Nov

Alicia and Patti both lost their daughters to meningitis B recently. They support Princeton University’s decision to recommend the meningitis B vaccine to its students in response to an outbreak. Their daughters were vaccinated with the current vaccine which does not protect against the B strain. They look forward to a time when vaccines are available against all active strains of the disease. We hope you read their stories.

Alicia’s Story:

My daughter Emily was 19 years-old when she contracted meningococcal meningitis. She was a sophomore at a small private liberal arts college called Kalamazoo College. She passed away on February 2nd of this year. Despite valiant efforts to save her life, she was declared brain dead within 36 hours of walking into the hospital complaining of a headache. They tried everything, including a craniotomy, to relieve the swelling caused by the disease. Nothing worked.

Emily had been vaccinated, but she had the B serogroup, which wasn’t covered by the vaccine. I was not aware that the current vaccines don’t prevent all strains of the disease. I take some comfort that I did everything in my power to protect her at that time. But, as a mom who lost my child to the B strain, I would have given anything for an opportunity to further protect Emily. I would certainly want my other children to have access to a vaccine that could protect them during an outbreak.

I don’t know how my Emily got the disease. The truth of the matter is that most cases of meningitis occur through exposure to an asymptomatic carrier.

It is so important for all students, faculty and families to learn about the symptoms of meningococcal disease and seek prompt medical attention. It is especially important because the infection can be mistaken for other illnesses. Emily started out with a headache. If I had known the symptoms I would have sent her to the hospital when she first complained of a headache. Emily’s headache was misdiagnosed for a migraine, which delayed treatment.

I got involved with the National Meningitis Association to help educate and protect other families.

Patti’s story:

In June of 2012, my beautiful daughter, Kim, was a healthy 17-year-old senior in high school – excited about her upcoming high school graduation and prom. She came home from school complaining of body aches and a temperature of 101. I called her pediatrician whose recommendation was to bring her to the office the next morning because it sounded to him to be possibly strep throat or the flu. As a mother and a nurse, I agreed with his recommendation.

When we woke the following morning, she told me she felt as though her “ankles were bleeding.” When I looked at her ankles there was a very small rash on one. The rash had purplish spots. I immediately took her to the pediatrician. By the time I got her there, she was lethargic and in pain and the rash starting appearing on other parts of her body. She also had broken blood vessels in one of her eyes. The doctor called an ambulance.

Kim was diagnosed with meningococcemia – meaning the meningococcal bacteria had invaded her blood. By the time she was admitted to the hospital, some of her vital organs (heart, lungs, kidneys) were already failing as they were attacked by the meningococcal bacteria via her bloodstream. The circulation to her extremities was very poor.

My daughter fought for her life over the next ten days. Even though she was treated immediately and aggressively with excellent care, she was eventually declared brain dead. If she had not been declared brain dead and survived, she would have undergone amputations of both hands and feet and would likely have been on kidney dialysis.

Kim didn’t have the classic symptoms of meningococcal disease just hours before going into the hospital. She didn’t have a stiff neck. She didn’t have a bad headache. She wasn’t sensitive to light. She didn’t have a rash initially. She wasn’t confused. She had body aches and a fever of 101. That’s it. AND she was vaccinated. I thought she was safe. But she contracted serogroup B which the current U.S. vaccine does not protect against. This bacteria is so aggressive and invades the body so rapidly. In my daughter’s case, quick medical intervention could not save her.

If I were the parent of a Princeton student, I’d be grateful my child had access to the serogroup B vaccine during this outbreak. As a parent who lost a child to serogroup B meningitis, I look forward to the licensure and hopefully broad availability of this vaccine.

Universal Immunization Symbol

14 Nov

Universal Immunization Symbol


Good news! The universal immunization symbol is ready and available for use by all immunization advocates.

It is designed for all immunization organizations and advocates to display as a way to show solidarity in their awareness of and support for immunization.

The concept is that, just as a pink ribbon is associated with breast cancer, and a puzzle piece with autism, so this image is the recognized symbol of immunization. Organizations are encouraged to work together and use this symbol as a statement of broad support of immunization.

It is a reflection of all of our voices and is a solid addition to each organization’s individual image library. The symbol does not replace organizational or campaign logos, but is rather a symbol to be used when we wish to collectively present a united front in support of immunization.

The symbol’s use is limited only by our imaginations. It’s envisioned that the image will be used on anything from Web sites, brochures and other print materials, to T-shirts, pins, and social media sites.

In the spring of 2013, immunization coalitions around the country voiced a desire for a universal symbol. Putting thought into action, a small group representing the coalitions worked together to identify several potential designs.  These designs were put forward, and through a public vote, this symbol was chosen.

The umbrella, representing protection of the community, tells the story of the power of immunizations. The symbol, in several formats, is housed on Google Docs, and is available to all immunization advocates as a free download.

In addition to the logo in full color, black, or white, there is also a Style Guide and Read Me guide on how to download and use the symbol:


For questions, please contact one of the following:

Joanne C. Sullivan, RN, BSN

Pennsylvania Immunization Coalition



Lynn Bozof

National Meningitis Association



Litjen (L.J) Tan, MS, PhD

Immunization Action Coalition



Trish Parnell



Learning Lessons from Measles – repost from Voices for Vaccines

23 Sep

We have probably all heard of the recent outbreaks of measles due to non-vaccination compliance.  The same is true for pertussis.  What disease will be next?

I am reposting this great blog from Voices for Vaccines — there are many of us who care about our children and grandchildren.  There are opportunities to protect our kids from diseases that we suffered.  How can we not take advantage of this?

He had had the measles.  Now I had the measles.

Please vaccinate.

What to believe?

14 Aug

We are overwhelmed with story after story about what is true about vaccinations.  Are they safe?  Are there too many?  Should I vaccinate my child? (Yes, No, Yes).  Here is a blog that answers some popular myths.

August is National Immunization Awareness Month!

4 Aug

Any time is a good time for immunizations, but August is dedicated to raising awareness of immunizations.  The first week of August is set aside to concentrate on young adults off to college.  You’ve seen your kids through birth, seen them grow through kindergarten and high school.  But, they still need vaccines, and it’s not time to let up.  Here are some helpful tips:

    • As kids get older, they are more at risk for catching diseases, like meningococcal meningitis, so they need protection that vaccines provide.
    • Put cancer prevention on your back to school checklist. HPV vaccine can prevent the types of HPV that can cause cervical cancer in girls, anal cancer in boys, and genital warts in both boys and girls.
    • Everyone older than 6 months of age is recommended to receive a yearly flu vaccination, and older children are no exception!  It’s important to know that flu can be serious, even for healthy young people. So all kids should get at least one flu shot every year.

We can all do our part in supporting National Immunization Awareness Month!


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