“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!

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