Nate’s Meningitis B Story
Nate is a meningococcal disease Advocate. He is not a healthcare provider. This is his story in his own words.
Nate was compensated by GSK for his participation. This is one person’s experience. Other people’s experience with meningococcal disease
Vaccination may not protect all recipients.
After about 4 hours, I hadn’t heard anything. Then the nurse came in. I told her I needed to be treated or sent home. And the nurse looked at me and said, “If you leave now, you’ll probably die.”
Since I was six years old, my dream was to be a national park ranger. I grew up not far from Kings Canyon National Park, Sequoia National Park, and Yosemite National Park. Just standing underneath the giant sequoias and looking up at the stars through those giant trees just captured my imagination.
In college, I studied environmental studies. My passion in life was to be outdoors, to study and grow with the environment and help people gain a better understanding of the world.
In the spring of 2005, I went on two school trips. The first was to Arches National Park down in Moab, Utah, and then the following week I was out in Washington D.C. On my way home, I was feeling very cold. I couldn’t get warm, and I was on a layover in Detroit. People were coming by telling me that I didn’t look good. I started getting worried because, with people telling me that and me not getting warm, I thought I needed to go to the emergency room.
They called over the emergency medical services team, and they put me in an ambulance and took me to the hospital. In the ER, it was really busy, and the nurse there thought I had the flu. After about four hours, I hadn’t heard anything.
When the nurse came in, I told her I needed to be treated or sent home. I’ve got school the next day. And the nurse looked at me and said, “If you leave now, you’ll probably die.” I broke down crying, and about 20 minutes later I slipped into a coma.
When the doctors called my family to let them know what I was going through, they told them that I was in a coma and that they likely would not make it to see me alive. My heart was beating at 190 beats per minute, and my brain was functioning at less than 2% of what I normally function at.
My family didn’t want to give up on me, so they were talking to me while I was in the coma. They were playing music from my favorite artists. As they started playing music, my heart rate started to come down, and my brain activity began to pick up.
I came out of the coma on April 12th, which was nine days after I went in. I remember looking around the room and seeing the scared faces of my family and remembering that I knew I had to be strong for them.
They did their best to keep me from seeing what my legs looked like. I could see my fingers, that they had turned black and crispy. They looked like they had been mummified. My hands were stuck in contractures. My voice, I couldn’t really speak.
The doctor told me that I had meningococcal septicemia with complications from disseminated intravascular coagulation, and I didn’t understand what that meant.
I didn’t really understand what this would do to me for the rest of my life. Every day, they would come in and tell me something a little different. They told me I was going to lose some toes.
Then, they told me I would lose my legs. They thought I would lose my hands. They also thought I would lose my nose, and eventually they told me I would never walk again.
The sepsis had caused my kidneys to shut down. I had to be on dialysis, which is a horrible, miserable existence. You’re tied to a machine three hours a day, three days a week.
After nine days in a coma and over a month in the hospital in Detroit, my family had me transferred back to the hospital closest to where I lived to have more surgeries. It took two days for the doctors to do all the amputations that were required.
They would go in, and they would debride my skin to see what was healthy and what was not, and then they would cut and do this over and over until they removed my left leg below the knee, the toes on my right foot, and the fingers on both hands.
It was like my life had changed in an instant. I was going to have a life of remembering the things that I used to be able to do and having a hard time not being able to do them. After they told me I would never walk again, it was an answer I would not accept. I decided that I would make it happen no matter what.
I went through several different prosthetics to try and find prosthetics that actually worked. And after four years of struggle and four years of pain, I finally was able to walk full-time.
I went on to start my master’s degree, and that’s when I was offered my first job as a park ranger, and I was so excited, I both yelled and I cried at the same time with excitement. It was a great day.
In 2011, I got to work in my second park, which was my dream park. I got to work in Yellowstone. Most visitors didn’t even notice that I had a prosthetic leg because I wore pants all the time, and it felt like I was whole, like I had been able to accomplish what I had set out my entire life to do and what the doctors said I would never be able to do.
Becoming a park ranger helped me realize the person that I wanted to become, but there was a lot of anger sitting there, a lot of anger that I got sick, that I would spend my whole life in pain.
Over the years, I’ve spent a lot of time in therapy to try and work on the emotional issues and the physical issues.
While I’m not 100% where I want to be, I am no longer in that bad place that I was after the meningitis. I’ve grown as a person. I’ve released some of that anger, but there’s still some there. It stays with you. The memory of the person that I was will always be with me, and sometimes it’s hard to let that go.
But life is about progressing and learning who you are, and that’s what I am trying to do as a survivor from meningitis. I’m working now to hike the Pacific Crest Trail. That’s my goal. It’s 2,650 miles from the Mexican border to the Canadian border through California, Oregon, and Washington.
Being able to set foot on that trail and just even attempt it is special, something that I wasn’t supposed to ever be able to do. I’m also working to spread awareness about meningitis. Although meningitis is uncommon, people who contract it don’t always live to tell their story.
This is a really dangerous and painful disease to have. I don’t want people to have to go through the will educate themselves on the importance of vaccination for meningococcal disease and that people will talk to their doctors about it.
There are two different types of vaccines to help protect teens and young adult patients against the five preventable serogroups of meningitis: A, C, W, Y and B. Vaccination may not protect all recipients.
My hope is that physicians will educate themselves on the importance of vaccination for meningococcal disease and that people will talk to their doctors about it.
There are two different types of vaccines. There’s one for the type of meningitis I had, which was Meningitis B. We think it can’t happen to us, but it can happen. You can take steps to help protect your patients from getting it.
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BEXVID210003 June 2021
Produced in USA.