Monday, October 15, 2007

Do you know the symptoms....

Hey Everyone!
It's been nearly over a week, and I am in from Dallas, after spending sometime with a wonderful friend Tammy Futterman. Some of you may know, some of you may not, the turn of events that had happened to her in loosing her 19 year old daughter "Rachel" to Bacterial Meningitis. To see the effects "Before and After" another Creative Memories Consultant and great friend Barbara Burnes summed it all perfectly... what a parent goes thru, and this may even be painful to read for some.. but in it she completely captured EVERYTHING that happened - being able to document things I never could have, and I am thankful for that.
This is forever etched in my mind....
Tyler has had his shot, and Lauren will be getting hers on Monday.. I encourage to read this, let it touch you, and then take care of those you love. Even today in the news there was a scare at UCF, and since the death of Rachel, two other families have lost loved ones to this. Statistics say that 300 a year die from this.. that is almost one person a day!!
I welcome all of you to comment on this.. I will answer questions I know.. and direct those I don't. This should be mandatory in Colleges--and somehow we should take steps towards this. Tammy also learned that in state prisons, it is mandatory, no questions asked that each prison mate get this vaccination... Unbelievable...
It was about a week ago that I watched one of my best friends and her husband bury their 19 year old daughter Rachel Futterman. Rachel Futterman was a happy, feisty, energetic, athletically gifted student at the University of South Florida.

Last Saturday night, at 11:30 pm, I received a phone call from my dear friend Karen Hohman. Good news never arrives in late night phone calls.My heart was beating fast before I even said the words hello.In a whispered voice, Karen said, "Barb, it's Rachel Futterman. She's in a coma at University Hospital in Tampa. She's got bacterial meningitis. It doesn't look good. She's not showing any brain activity. Tammy's hysterical."

By the next morning, Karen and I were in Tampa holding vigil by Rachel's bedside. Along with 3 other "sister" CM Consultants, the 5 of us watched as Tammy, Joel, Robert, and Jaime endured 2 agony filled days watching their daughter and sister survive on life support.

It's every parent's worst nightmare.And Tammy and Joel are no exception. They adored their daughter Rachel. Call them helicopter parents if you will, for that's what they were. Like any of you reading this, Tammy and Joel raised Rachel with all the love and pictures and involvement and attention that they knew possible. Rachel was their oldest, their only girl.. When it came time for Rachel to receive her "college" Menactra vaccine, Rachel's MD didn't carry it. Unlike Pediatricians, Internal Medicine and Family Practioners don't always stock these vaccines. In order for Rachel to get this vaccine, she'd have to go to the public health department or to the clinic on USF's campus.

Too much legwork for a silly vaccine. Haven't we all said something like that before. The "extra" legwork just becomes a wee bit too much. Sign the waiver.Like she's actually gonna get meningitis anyways.Fast forward a year and a half.

It's Rachel's sophomore year at USF. She couldn't be happier. She's living in the Delta Gamma house with her sorority sisters. Life is FANTASTIC!And out of no where, when you'd least expect it, heathy, full of life, Rachel begins to feel sick.

bright lights hurt her eyes

She missed classes on Friday. Sleeps most of the day.It's the flu. Gotta sleep it off. Try to keep Advil down. It should pass soon. Rachel's roommate is attentive and checks on Rachel between classes.Hours pass.Friday night comes and Rachel isn't improvingHeadaches persist. Lethargic. Achy joints.

Man, this is a bad case of the flu.Maybe a good night sleep will get rid of this once and for all.Rachel and her roommate go to bed. During the night, the bacterial meningitis worsened by the minute in Rachel's beautiful body. By 6am the following morning, Amber awoke to Rachel having a grand mal seizure.911 was called and Rachel was brought in to the hospital.

Rachel never opened her beautiful eyes again.

In the hospital on the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, I saw our Rachel attched to life support, with more IV bags and beeping monitors than I knew possible. I watched in grief as my precious friend Tammy stroked her daughter's hair, and kiss her hand. Amid Tammy's wailing of tears, she'd laugh at Rachel's choice of fingernail polish, or comment on how much all this touching and petting would have made Rachel crazy. Tammy wanted one last chance to lie in bed next to her daughter and so we arranged it.. asking the nurses to move Rachel to one side of the bed, so Tammy could snuggle with "her baby girl" one final time. While laying by Rachel's side, Tammy pushed her face up against Rachel's and breathed in every last scent she could. She kissed her ear, her cheek, her forehead, and sang to her daughter one final lullaby..
"Oh do you know the muffin man?"

She pressed her hand to Rachel's heart and cried, "I don't want it to ever stop beating."Although I know this depth of grief is possible, I never thought I'd see it in my lifetime. Not like this..Not with someone as healthy at Rachel.Not this fast.How could this nightmare be happening?On Monday afternoon, we were all told that we had one last chance to kiss Rachel goodbye. One by one, we left Rachel's bedside, comforting each other as the doors closed behind us. Tammy and Joel remained alone the room with their daughter. This was their time for a final goodbye.

The pain in their hearts was an unparalleled, unbearable pain. I have no doubt. Silence fills the space between all of us waiting outside ICU Unit.Minutes pass.Quietly, the doors to the Peds ICU Unit open wide. Rachel was being wheeled down to surgery by the special team from the Organ Donor Program. Tammy and Joel walked at the front of the bed, escorting Rachel as far as they could, until they could be with her no longer. The "team," along with Tammy and Joel entered into the elevator and were gone. 7 anxious people across the country had been notified and were awaiting their chance at new life, thanks to Rachel Futterman. Rachel's brother Robert wanted to escort his sister down to surgery and missed the silent procession. He came to me and said, "Where are my parents?".. Quickly, I brought Robert down the elevator to meet his parents, and as the elevator doors opened, I heard Tammy crying as she called out to the team taking Rachel away, "Take care of my baby girl. Take care of my baby!" I could hear her sobs as I took the elevator back up.

Minutes later, Tammy, Joel and Robert took a silent elevator ride back up to the Peds ICU unit, alone. Tammy was walking, folded into her husbands arms as he practically carried her each step away from their daughter. Though Rachel showed no brain activity during the 2 days they were with her, it was still Rachel lying before them.. looking like Rachel, the the hands and heart and hair and face and feet of sweet Rachel.And now.forever..She was gone..If there's any good that comes from Rachel's death, it'd be this..

Get your kids vaccinate with Menactra. College kids are at a much higher risk of contracting meningitis than younger children, although younger kids can develop bacterial meningitis as well.Rachel died of Neisseria, one of the strains of bacterial meningitis that would have been covered by Menactra. Just today, my 14 year old received his Menactra vaccine.Log on to one of the many meningitis websites. LEARN of the signs and symptoms of meningitis. Knowledge is power.

My kids call me Debbie Downer, for I'm always alerting them to health issues, potentil weather alerts, or safety precautions. I don't care. I'll burden them with any information I can if it saves their lives, or someone elses. And there's always the chance that my words are falling on deaf ears. Who knows. I'll keep talking.Another young Maryland college student died from this very same bacterial infection. He died on Tuesday, the 25th, the day of Rachel's funeral. All of us CM "sisters" that were holding vigil by Rachel's bedside were confident that our kids had received the Menactra vaccine. 2 of us were surpsied to learn that we were wrong. Our college kids, living in dorms had not been vacinated.There are so many issues and events that are out of our control when it comes to our kids, especially our college kids. But this is an issue you can control. Ask your friends if their kids have been vaccinated. Make sure your kids are vaccinated. My oldest 2 college kids received the vaccine called mennimune and it only has a 3 - 5 year window of coverage. You can bet they'll be getting Menactra in the very near future. My Bobby Jerome just received his Menactra yesterday.

To you Rachel Futterman, I shall always remember you. You were full of life and passion, energy and spunk. It was a gift to have known you. A part of you will live with me forever.And to my precious friends Tammy and Joel, your daughter's death will not be in vane. I promise. Know I love you both. Barbara

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