Is Preventing Meningitis Not Worth the Expense?

"In those moments everything changed for all of us.” A look at the devastating personal cost of meningitis.
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Memphis Lynn Lafferty
Memphis Lafferty: Then and Now

And by challenges, they don’t mean trying to find clean jeans, matching socks and that missing library book – the routine things that drive people like me into a tizzy on a regular basis. Challenges that the average person really just can’t even fathom.

“Memphis cannot wear his prosthetic legs all day long due to skin breakdowns; few people pack their child’s prosthetic legs when getting ready for school. Memphis not having hands definitely puts all of this on a totally different level; losing his legs was significant but nothing as compared with losing his arms.”

Money is another constant concern for the Lafferty family. While the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta has been “extremely generous” to the Laffertys (they are currently providing Memphis’ prosthetic legs; he typically goes through a little more than two sets a year due to his rapid growth), and other some expenses are covered by Medicaid, the Laffertys still need financial help to care for their child. “Those needs are met by the kindness of strangers, who are willing to make tax deductible contributions to his Trust Fund,” they said. “Memphis’ future is very dependent on other people caring enough.”

Their greatest fear? “That the Fund will be depleted.”  

But while their daily struggles are hard to imagine, the Lafferty’s dreams for their children are totally relatable. They are the same as every parent’s dream the word over: “Our hope is that Memphis and Claire will be happy, well adjusted and help to make the world a better place. Most of all, we hope that they will know how much they are loved.”

Unfortunately, young Memphis is only one of the many victims of the horrible disease – and despite his terrible losses, he is considered one of the lucky ones. In America, meningitis is the leading infectious cause of death in early childhood. In the U.S., approximately one in 16 infants who contract meningitis will die from it, and of those who survive, as many as one in five will suffer from amputations, seizures, paralysis, hearing loss and learning disabilities.

Perhaps most terrifying of all, meningitis can strike otherwise healthy babies suddenly, without warning.  Even with early treatment, the disease can progress rapidly and can kill in as fast as four hours. As one mother told the Columbus Dispatch, “I had never heard about (meningitis). (My daughter) was perfectly healthy the day before. One day, you’re well; the next day, you’re on your deathbed.”

As a parent, I find this beyond terrifying. And I have to ask: Isn’t there anything that can be done?

Frankie Milley, Founder and National President of an organization called Meningitis Angels, believes there is – and that something is increased public awareness about the disease, increased access to the vaccine currently available, and the development and recommendation by the federal Centers for Disease Control (CDC) of an infant vaccine. For, although the meningococcal conjugate vaccine, also known as MCV4, is recommended by the CDC for children ages 11 to 12 and again for adolescents just entering high school, doctors and parents in the United States still are awaiting a federally approved and recommended vaccine for infants two and under.   


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0 thoughts on “Is Preventing Meningitis Not Worth the Expense?

  1. petunia says:

    Augh this is heartbreaking. The whole vaccine issue is so scary — there’s so much conflicting information out there. My heart goes out to these families — and how wonderful it would be to prevent any more such tragedies.

  2. high heels says:

    The idea that people are quibbling over the cost of a vaccine instead of saving lives is horrible.

  3. nycblonde says:

    Why is it that in the US, people are concerned with cost and the rest of the world is more concerned with saving lives?

  4. NYCdogmommy says:

    Saving money equals dead people- this is not a good equation.

  5. FBNYC says:

    Those statistics about meningitis are terrifying. I agree with the Laffertys that no child should ever have to go through that.

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