Home > In the News, Preventable Diseases > One Meningitis Survivor Hopes to Inspire a Generation

One Meningitis Survivor Hopes to Inspire a Generation

August 31, 2012

One of my fondest memories from this summer was the time our family spent watching the Olympics together.  My children are each committed athletes themselves, so regardless of the sport we were watching, we were always in awe of the skill and determination of the competitors.  No matter who ultimately won the gold, my heart always swelled when I saw those athletes proudly representing their country upon the podium.

Though the Summer Olympics have come and gone, London is currently hosting another major event that is sure to provide some good family inspiration.  The 2012 Paralympics began on Wednesday and this year’s slogan, “Inspire a Generation,” couldn’t be more appropriate for one of America’s own athletes.

As the leader of the U.S. Wheelchair Rugby Team, Nick Springer is competing for his ninth consecutive gold medal.  Although his name may not be as familiar as Michael Phelps, his story is even more compelling.  Nick was a young athlete prior to contracting the bacterial infection meningococcal meningitis as a 14-year-old at summer camp in 1999.  He woke from a medically induced coma to find that both his arms and legs had been amputated. He lost his legs from the knees, down, and his arms at mid-forearm.  In the video below, Nick explains the many challenges he had to overcome in his life, but he focuses on how determined he is to educate people about meningitis vaccination.

As described in a recent People magazine article,

“With determination, a sense of humor, and a loving family, he moved his life forward, becoming the top defender in his sport.”

“Today, Nick lives independently and drives his own car, dividing his time between New York and Phoenix, where he plays rugby for the Phoenix Fusion. Two years ago he graduated from Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Fla., and he works as a spokesperson for the National Meningitis Association (of which his mother was a co-founder).”

Yesterday I spoke with another co-founder of the National Meningitis Association, Lynn Bozof, who lost her son to meningitis many years ago.  In her continuing effort to educate others regarding the importance of meningitis vaccination, Lynn has also launched the Parents Who Protect blog.  She talked fondly of Nick and his family, as she explained,

“Nick’s mom, along with me and three other parents, were the original founders of the National Meningitis Association.  I have seen Nick grow and mature into the fine young man he is today.  His mom, unfortunately passed away 4 years ago, but I know she is very proud of him.  Her message, Nick’s message, and all of us at NMA just hope people will vaccinate their children.”

Just prior to my conversation with Lynn, I had also participated in a special webinar entitled Teens, Tweens and Vaccines.  On the call, Dr. Anne Schuchat, of the CDC and Director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, provided detailed information about the vaccination status of our nation’s teens and tweens and discussed upcoming campaigns to promote vaccination to this hard to reach population and their parents.

One of the things Dr. Schuchat emphasized was the meningitis vaccine and the need for two dosesIdeally, the first dose should be administered to 11-12 year olds, while a second booster dose should follow at age 16, before the child enters the peak time of increased risk.  It’s important to note, whether your child received the 11-12 year old dose or not, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) suggests that your child receive the vaccine within 5 years of starting college.  In fact, many colleges have begun to require the meningococcal vaccination prior to enrollment and not just for students who live on campus.  Regardless of whether the meningitis vaccine is required for school or not, organizations like the CDC and the NMA want parents to know that it is not only available, but highly recommended as a safe and effective way to protect our children from a devastating, debilitating and sometimes deadly disease.

Yesterday, the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report released the adolescent vaccination coverage rates from 2011 which showed that the rates for the meningitis vaccine (MCV4) have remained steady in the 70% range.  While one may be encouraging that they haven’t dropped, there is obviously still room for improvement.  The report also revealed that the Tdap vaccination among adolescents have improved to 78%, but HPV rates have remain consistent around 53% for the first dose.

In addition to the actual immunization rates of today’s teens, what’s important to note is that specific interventions can be effective at increasing adolescent vaccination coverage – interventions such as strong recommendations from health care providers, making the most of every health visit as an opportunity for vaccination, reducing out-of-pocket costs and using reminder/recall systems.   For more information on vaccines for teens and tweens, be sure to refer to the CDC’s adolescent specific pages.

Hopefully, spokespeople like Nick Springer will continue to bring these important immunization messages to an even greater audience.  He is certainly trying to “inspire a generation” by helping people realize the consequences of foregoing these important vaccines, and encouraging them to make the informed choice to vaccinate.

  1. Lara Lohne
    August 31, 2012 at 2:54 pm

    Bravo, Nick. You are truly an inspiration and well worth listening to. May your message reach millions and your story not be repeated in others due to your efforts!

  2. lilady
    August 31, 2012 at 3:19 pm

    Excellent post! Thank you Nick for all your efforts to reach out to teens about the importance of timely and complete immunizations.

    Thanks to Lynn Bozof and the other parents as well for your advocacy on behalf of kids.

  3. August 31, 2012 at 5:29 pm

    Hi Nick, We are all proud of your achievements and advocacy.
    We wish you love, strength and peace as you continue your work.

    Meningitis survivor Helen Keller said, “I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something that I can do.

    Frankie Milley, Mother to Ryan who died from meningococcal disease.
    Meningitis Angels,Founder/National Executive Director, http://www.Meningitis-Angels.org

    Meningitis Angels National Photo Contest (I Took the SHOT)
    Visit: http://www.meningitis-angels.org/meningitis-angels-vaccination-poster-contest.html

  4. lilady
    August 31, 2012 at 5:44 pm

    @ Frankie Milley: Every bit of your work is a living, breathing memorial to your son Ryan. Thank you so much for your advocacy.

  5. Quokka
    September 1, 2012 at 2:11 am

    Hi Frankie – thank you for your work. I have that Helen Keller quote on the wall in my office. It has followed me in every office I have worked since I first graduated from University. I was inspired by her after reading her story as a child and others will be inspired by what you have shared.

    Nick, as a big rugby fan and an Aussie – I hope you give us a chance for the medal this time, although just watching the games is enough reward for us non athletes.

  6. Lara Lohne
    September 1, 2012 at 1:59 pm

    Does anyone else find it odd that we haven’t yet heard from any of our resident trolls on this post? Do you think it’s only possible they will argue their ‘point’ when the child involved is still a child or no longer with us? Either way, it’s interesting, and I must say quite refreshing too! :D

  7. September 5, 2012 at 6:45 pm

    Nick, his dad, his sister, and his deceased mom are some of my favorite people. We met because Nancy, Nick’s mom, was one of the original founders of the National Meningitis Association, along with me and three others parents whose children were affected by meningitis. All of the Springers are wonderful people, very supportive, and have shown how you can overcome tragedies and come out on top. I value their friendship and am so thrilled for Nick to be at the Paralympics. He deserves not only an Olympic gold medal, but a golf medal of life.

  8. Gray Falcon
    September 6, 2012 at 8:21 am

    Huivamdam :
    Still this guy has more mobility than many victims of vaccines.

    Can I borrow your soul? You don’t seem to be using it.

  9. September 6, 2012 at 9:28 am

    Vaccines save lives. If you haven’t lost a child to a vaccine-preventable disease, then you don’t know what you’re talking about. Science is on the side of vaccine safety.

  10. Huivamdam
    September 6, 2012 at 9:39 am

    Vaccines injure people. If you haven’t lost a child to a vaccine then you don’t know what you’re talking about.

    Lynn Bozof :
    Science is on the side of vaccine safety.

    Science questions vaccine safety al the time. Reality (VAERS database) is on the side of massive vaccine injury.

  11. Kelly
    September 6, 2012 at 10:06 am

    VAERS is a passive reporting system. It does not support the claim of “massive vaccine injury”. Again, you are confusing correlation with causation.

  12. Huivamdam
    September 6, 2012 at 10:29 am

    Kelly :
    VAERS is a passive reporting system. It does not support the claim of “massive vaccine injury”. Again, you are confusing correlation with causation.

    Correlation is necessary for causation. I’m not confusing anything because the cause of all those alarming VAERS reports is not being looked at. They’re being systematically ignored.

    As a consequence there’s a potential for massive vaccine injury taking place right before our eyes and avoiding vaccines is just common sense.

  13. Gray Falcon
    September 6, 2012 at 10:56 am

    Hulvadam, shortly after you posted, a major traffic accident occurred. Why did you place a curse on this people with that post?

  14. Huivamdam
    September 6, 2012 at 10:58 am

    Kelly :
    Further there is no plausible biological mechanism to support a causal relationship.

    Then you deny vaccines cause encephalitis and neuropathy too

    Does VAERS have any use to you other than denying in bulk the tens of thousands of serious adverse reactions registered?

  15. Huivamdam
    September 6, 2012 at 10:59 am

    Gray Falcon :
    Hulvadam, shortly after you posted, a major traffic accident occurred. Why did you place a curse on this people with that post?

    Everybody knows vaccine skeptics are sent by Satan in person.

  16. Kelly
    September 6, 2012 at 11:15 am

    Huivamdam :

    Kelly :
    Further there is no plausible biological mechanism to support a causal relationship.

    Then you deny vaccines cause encephalitis and neuropathy too
    Does VAERS have any use to you other than denying in bulk the tens of thousands of serious adverse reactions registered?

    If you included the complete quote, which I made on another thread, you would know I was talking about autism. It’s pretty pathetic when you have to lie to make a point.

    And again, you are not understanding VAERS. What is reported is events that happened after vaccination. It does not mean that these events were caused by vaccines.

    “When evaluating data from VAERS, it is important to note that for any reported event, no cause-and-effect relationship has been established. Reports of all possible associations between vaccines and adverse events (possible side effects) are filed in VAERS. Therefore, VAERS collects data on any adverse event following vaccination, be it coincidental or truly caused by a vaccine. The report of an adverse event to VAERS is not documentation that a vaccine caused the event.” (h-ttp://vaers.hhs.gov/data/index)

    This is the very first paragraph that you must read and acknowledge that you understand in order to use VAERS data. You are obviously someone that is either challenged in reading comprehension or are purposefully misleading people.

  17. Huivamdam
    September 6, 2012 at 11:40 am

    Kelly :
    This is the very first paragraph that you must read and acknowledge that you understand in order to use VAERS data. You are obviously someone that is either challenged in reading comprehension or are purposefully misleading people.

    You are misleading people by equating “no cause-and-effect relationship has been established” – which is a declaration of IGNORANCE – with “absence of any cause-and-effect relationship”.

    VAERS adn^mits the recorded correlations, which EXIST, are not being examined for causation. Therefore ALL of them are potentially causal, which represents a risk unaffordable by parents until the cases are clarified (on judgment’s day).

  18. Kelly
    September 6, 2012 at 11:53 am

    VAERS adn^mits the recorded correlations, which EXIST, are not being examined for causation. Therefore ALL of them are potentially causal, which represents a risk unaffordable by parents until the cases are clarified (on judgment’s day).

    Oh really? Because in that page you have to acknowledge you understand in order to gain access to VAERS data, it says this:

    DISCLAIMER: Please note that VAERS staff follow-up on all serious and other selected adverse event reports to obtain additional medical, laboratory, and/or autopsy records to help understand the concern raised. However, in general coding terms in VAERS do not change based on the information received during the follow-up process. VAERS data should be used with caution as numbers and conditions do not reflect data collected during follow-up. Note that the inclusion of events in VAERS data does not infer causality.

    We also have programs like this one: http://www.cdc.gov/vaccinesafety/Activities/vsd.html

    The VSD project allows for planned immunization safety studies as well as timely investigations of hypotheses that arise from review of medical literature, reports to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS), changes in immunization schedules, or the introduction of new vaccines.

    Again, your position cannot be very strong if the bet you can do to support it is to lie.

  19. Huivamdam
    September 6, 2012 at 12:16 pm

    Kelly :

    VAERS adn^mits the recorded correlations, which EXIST, are not being VAERS data should be used with caution as numbers and conditions do not reflect data collected during follow-up.

    So the results of follow-up remain hidden. What does it change?

  20. Kelly
    September 6, 2012 at 12:24 pm

    You have falsely attributed your words to me, Huivamdam. It’s pretty funny when you criticize yourself by lying about who said what.

  21. Huivamdam
    September 6, 2012 at 12:34 pm

    Kelly “you” do have a lot of programs in place, yet the results of the cause-effect analysis of serious reported adverse reactions such as autism are to be found in the limbo of the just after we’re all dead.

    Now you are selling the lack of disclosure and the lack of transparency of such programs as “evidence” that all serious VAERS reports are fake, and as “proof” taht vaciens are safe. You’re a little Goebbels in training, dear girl.

    The correct logicy is, by default, to consider any harmful correlation as a RISK factor and avoid it until proven wrong.

  22. Lara Lohne
    September 6, 2012 at 12:50 pm

    @Huivamdam, You seem to be laboring under the illusion that anyone who has a child that gets injured or dies is automatically going to tell the truth about what actually happened. Or even that medical doctors are infallible and only report injuries or deaths that are proven to have been associated with a vaccine. Do you know what percentage of injuries and deaths reported to VAERS are actually from accidents of one kind or another, or even child abuse and the parent just reports it as a vaccine injury because they see an easy way to maybe make some cash and cover their tracks as well? People by nature are deceitful. There are even people who tell the same lies over and over and begin to believe they are true. Here’s a scenario for you, it’s been used here (I believe) before:

    On a lovely, waning Friday afternoon, a young woman goes to visit her doctor for a check up. During the course of that check up she receives a booster vaccine. Later that night she goes out with her friends to a club for some drinking and dancing. She’s careful not to drive while intoxicated, which is responsible of her. But sometime during the night of revelry, she ends up on top of a table, dancing. Suddenly she loses her footing and falls off the table, hitting her head on her way down and sustaining a concussion. This was a head injury that was received hours after she received a vaccine, the emergency room physicians may report it to VAERS because of that basic fact. But was the vaccine really responsible for the injury or was it the vast amounts of alcohol that impaired her judgement and allowed her to think standing and dancing on a table would be ok?

    The majority of the cases reported to VAERS are cases like this, an injury or death occurred after a vaccine and therefore was reported, but the injury and/or death had nothing at all to do with the vaccine, therefore, correlation, but not causation. Do you get it now?

  23. Kelly
    September 6, 2012 at 12:58 pm

    Huivamdam :
    Kelly “you” do have a lot of programs in place, yet the results of the cause-effect analysis of serious reported adverse reactions such as autism are to be found in the limbo of the just after we’re all dead.
    Now you are selling the lack of disclosure and the lack of transparency of such programs as “evidence” that all serious VAERS reports are fake, and as “proof” taht vaciens are safe. You’re a little Goebbels in training, dear girl.
    The correct logicy is, by default, to consider any harmful correlation as a RISK factor and avoid it until proven wrong.

    Just because you are ignorant of the literature that reports the findings of the studies using VAERS data doesn’t mean that there is a lack of disclosure and transparency.

    The autism-vaccine connection has been investigated and found to be false.

    Your logic is incorrect because you are ignoring the risk of not vaccinating, which is much greater than avoiding vaccines because of some risk you have created in your mind. You are favoring fantasy over reality and then claim that is a logical choice.

  24. Huivamdam
    September 6, 2012 at 1:07 pm

    Lara Lohne :
    You seem to be laboring under the illusion that anyone who has a child that gets injured or dies is automatically going to tell the truth about what actually happened.

    Red herring, VAERS assumes the majority will tell the truth, otherwise the program wouldn’t exist. Also, if significant levels of fraud had been detected the progam would have been closed.

  25. Kelly
    September 6, 2012 at 1:14 pm

    No, Huivamdam. VAERS assumes that a majority of people are lying which is why all reports are investigated for veracity before reaching the conclusion that a vaccine caused a particularly adverse event. The instructions on the VAERS page which you must acknowledge before using the data cautions that VAERS reports may not be accurate and should not be treated as such.

  26. Huivamdam
    September 6, 2012 at 1:18 pm

    Kelly :

    Your logic is incorrect because you are ignoring the risk of not vaccinating, which is much greater than avoiding vaccines because of some risk you have created in your mind.

    The risk of not vaccinating depends basically on the actual efficacy of the vaccine (unknown) and the incidence of the disease. The number has to be downscaled by the nutrition status and the level of hygene… which in a modern western family implies zero risk.

    In contrast, the risk of vaccinating are the same for everybody, largely ingored, denied and undisclosed. Doctors get NO training at recognizing vaccine injuries, adding yet another layer of uncertainty to safety. of vaccine. All piles up to form an unacceptable stash of vaccine dung for your kids.

  27. Huivamdam
    September 6, 2012 at 1:21 pm

    Kelly :
    No, Huivamdam. VAERS assumes that a majority of people are lying which is why all reports are investigated for veracity before reaching the conclusion that a vaccine caused a particularly adverse event.

    Since only a minority of reports ever get investigated, by your same logic it follows that VAERS assumes they majority are telling the truth.

    Goebbels is hanging from her own rope :D

  28. Huivamdam
    September 6, 2012 at 1:22 pm

    Kelly :
    The instructions on the VAERS page which you must acknowledge before using the data cautions that VAERS reports may not be accurate and should not be treated as such

    “May not be accurate” is exactly the same as “may be accurate”, Goebbels wannabe.

  29. Kelly
    September 6, 2012 at 1:25 pm

    No, the risk of not vaccinating doesn’t depend on the efficiency of the vaccine. If you aren’t vaccinated, you don’t get the vaccine.

    Nutritional status and hygiene do not prevent getting a vaccine preventable disease, although they may help in minimizing serious outcomes.

    The risks of vaccination are required to be disclosed by law in the US. These risks are outlined on the VIS.

    You are claiming doctors aren’t trained in diagnosis? Really? That’s their job and what they are trained to do.

  30. Gray Falcon
    September 6, 2012 at 1:29 pm

    Huivamdam, are you saying that all accusations must be assumed to be true until proved otherwise? If that’s so, why should I trust an accused warlock? (Post #13)

  31. Huivamdam
    September 6, 2012 at 1:31 pm

    Kelly :
    No, the risk of not vaccinating doesn’t depend on the efficiency of the vaccine. If you aren’t vaccinated, you don’t get the vaccine.

    When you comopare you have to talk about relative risk. If the vaccine has 0 efficacy the relative risk of not vaccinating is 1, if it’s 100% the relative risk is infinity. So ti does depend on the efficacy of the vaccine.

  32. Kelly
    September 6, 2012 at 1:34 pm

    Dr. Paul Joseph Goebbels (help·info) (German: [ˈɡœbəls];[2] 29 October 1897 – 1 May 1945) was a German politician and Reich Minister of Propaganda in Nazi Germany from 1933 to 1945. As one of Adolf Hitler’s closest associates and most devout followers, he was known for his zealous oratory and anti-Semitism.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_Goebbels

    And Huivamdam evokes Godwin’s law in less than 25 comments. Nice job! I love it when anti-vaxers reveal themselves to be complete whackos.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Godwin's_law

  33. Huivamdam
    September 6, 2012 at 1:34 pm

    Gray Falcon :
    Huivamdam, are you saying that all accusations must be assumed to be true until proved otherwise? If that’s so, why should I trust an accused warlock? (Post #13)

    Gray, you’re trying to frame victims of vaccine injury as “accusers”. An ailments is not an accusation, but a symptom the person is suffering. Vaccine defenders always blame the victim when the product they peddle fails.

  34. Huivamdam
    September 6, 2012 at 1:38 pm

    Kelly :
    Nutritional status and hygiene do not prevent getting a vaccine preventable disease,

    Yes they do and I can bury you under a ple of references to your further SHAME.

    And please, quit using LOADED words like “vaccine preventable disease” created only to distort reality.

    Pertussis antibodies DO NOT confer protection (as per CDC) and you’re at odds providing alternative mechanisms of protection because they were never described.

  35. Kelly
    September 6, 2012 at 1:47 pm

    Pertussis antibodies DO NOT confer protection (as per CDC) and you’re at odds providing alternative mechanisms of protection because they were never described.

    No, you are lying again. The reference you provided from the CDC said that antibody titers don’t correlate with protection, not that antibodies do not confer protection.

    Again, the best way to learn immunology is to take a course in immunology. I do not owe you this education.

  36. Kelly
    September 6, 2012 at 1:49 pm

    Huivamdam :

    Kelly :
    Nutritional status and hygiene do not prevent getting a vaccine preventable disease,

    Yes they do and I can bury you under a ple of references to your further SHAME.

    Oh, like the last reference you provided that showed you were wrong? Please do bury me in a pile of references so we can explain how misinformed you are.

  37. September 6, 2012 at 4:04 pm

    @kelly – our new troll almost immediately invoked Godwins’ Law, best to just ignore…..

  38. Kelly
    September 6, 2012 at 4:06 pm

    I think it is just a sock of putinhead.

    Ignoring from now on.

  39. Huivamdam
    September 6, 2012 at 4:31 pm

    Kelly :
    No, you are lying again. The reference you provided from the CDC said that antibody titers don’t correlate with protection, not that antibodies do not confer protection.

    If the correlation between titers and protection fails you*ve nothing left to claim antibodies provide protection. Correlation is needed for causation.

    It also means the industy*s standard to measure vaccine efficacy, antibody titers, is a crock.

    You*re in a cesspool grasping for air.

  40. September 6, 2012 at 4:41 pm

    @kelly, GF & Lilady – based on our new troll’s Nazi fixation, I have reported him to the moderators.

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