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241 May 1, 2001
UNPROTECTED PEOPLE: Stories of
people who have suffered or died from vaccine-preventable diseases
BOY DIES OF PNEUMOCOCCAL MENINGITIS
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The following article was written by Carla Newby, who lost
her son to pneumococcal meningitis and is now general manager of the Meningitis Foundation of America.
As the general manager of the Meningitis Foundation of America and a mother, I would like to tell you about my
baby, my only son, Jacob. He touched so many lives in the six short years he was here on earth.
In the fall of 1998, life was good for our family. Jacob was an all-American kid with no special medical problems.
He loved life and he got along well with everybody.
My nightmare began on Monday, October 26. Jake was feeling ill when I went in to wake him and his sister, Lacey, for
school. I gave him some ibuprofen and he lay around for the rest of the day. About 5 p.m. he said he really didn't
feel well. He had a fever. I bathed him with cool water and held him. When I
discovered his temperature was 104.5, I called our family physician and told
him that I wanted to take Jacob to the ER. The doctor discouraged me, but I finally
At the hospital, they took blood and confirmed there was an infection somewhere. More tests were ordered and all of
them came back negative. The ER doctor diagnosed Jacob with strep throat and gave us a very strong
antibiotic. My mother was with us and asked the doctor to check for meningitis
or encephalitis. The doctor said she wasn't concerned about meningitis and that if Jacob wasn't better
by Thursday, I should take him to our doctor. She thought Jacob could probably return to school on Thursday.
That night Jacob didn't sleep well, but he felt a little
better the next morning. We had the best day we ever had; doing all his favorite things and eating his favorite
foods. But by 6 p.m., he said his head felt like it was going to crack open. He continued to get worse. I got out
my medical assisting book and started reading about meningitis. I began to suspect Jacob had the symptoms.
I talked to my doctor again and he told me to get Jacob to the ER right away. I
had to carry him to the car.
We waited in the ER for an hour. Jacob was vomiting and didn't want anyone to hold him. His face was gray and he
acted very tired. Once we got in to be seen, he seemed to be sleeping. But a little later he became combative and
started making high-pitched screams and throwing himself back onto the bed.
I told the doctor I thought he had meningitis. She ordered
a CAT scan and the results were normal. She finally decided to do a spinal tap--the only way to
confirm meningitis. As we waited for the results, Jacob called for me. I touched
his hand and told him I was there for him. A while later, he sat straight up and screamed, "Get my daddy!" Those were
the last words he ever spoke.
They put him on oxygen and a variety of other monitors and we waited. The spinal tap results came back. Jacob was
suffering from pneumococcal meningitis.
They told us they wanted to transport Jacob to another hospital. I rode with
him in the ambulance. I still thought that everything would be okay. Maybe we
would have to stay the night, but then Jake would be released the next day.
At the second hospital, I met up with my family. We were told to stay in the
waiting room while they worked on Jake. The doctor finally came out and took
us to a private room. I'll never forget his words. He said, "Jacob is a very sick
little boy. He's on a respirator, he's in a coma, and he's not going to make it."
I didn't believe it. I told him he was wrong--that Jacob would pull through. But
eventually I knew--I just knew that God was going to take him. Fourteen hours
later, two days after he first got sick, they pronounced Jacob brain dead. I
crawled into bed with him and sang our favorite song, "You Are My Sunshine."
There are no words to describe the horror of watching your child dying. My nightmare has never ended.
The funeral was November 1, but I don't remember it. Everything was just a blur.
Now I work very hard at the Meningitis Foundation of America to ensure that other parents never have to
experience the heartache that my family has endured. I urge parents everywhere to get their children vaccinated. I
believe that if the pneumococcal vaccine for children had been available during the
first few years of Jacob's life, we would not have lost him. Vaccination is very
important. It is a matter of life and death.
The Meningitis Foundation of America (MFA), a nonprofit, volunteer-based organization dedicated to supporting
sufferers of meningitis and their families and increasing awareness of meningitis. Founded in 1997, MFA is
headquartered at 7155 Shadeland Station, Suite 190, Indianapolis, IN 46256. Visit MFA's website at
ABOUT THE "UNPROTECTED PEOPLE" SERIES:
The Immunization Action Coalition (IAC) has published this story for the purpose of making it available for our
readers' review. We have not verified the story's content, for which the author is solely responsible. The views
reflected in this story are the writer's and do not necessarily reflect the position of IAC.
To read "Unprotected People" stories that were previously published in IAC EXPRESS, visit:
DO YOU KNOW OF STORIES THAT CAN HELP SAVE LIVES?
IAC is collecting stories of people who have suffered or died from vaccine-preventable diseases. Please let us know
if you have personal stories, or if you know of stories that have appeared in the media, that describe the
suffering that occurred because someone wasn't immunized. In addition, we are also collecting case reports to help us
illustrate the morbidity and mortality caused by vaccine-preventable diseases.
If you have stories or case reports that can help save lives, e-mail them to:
firstname.lastname@example.org or fax them to