World Meningitis Day: From Tragedy Springs a Legacy of Hope

The word ‘meningitis’ can strike fear in the hearts of parents, and for good reason.  This week, TIP is observing World Meningitis Day, to draw attention to this devastating disease.

Bacterial Meningitis is the swelling of the membranes, called meninges, which surround the brain and spinal cord. It’s symptoms of headaches, stiff neck and fever can appear quickly or over several days after exposure, with serious and sometimes fatal results. Other symptoms can include nausea, vomiting, increased sensitivity to light and altered mental state. Spread through the respiratory tract, those living in close quarters are most susceptible to meningitis. The disease can quickly spread through college dorms, army bases and boarding schools.

The good news is that most forms of bacterial meningitis are vaccine-preventable, but many families are unaware of the need to protect against this disease through immunization.  Unfortunately, several Texas families have learned the hard way that the disease can cause devastation in the blink of an eye.

On February 11, 2011, Greg William’s life changed forever. That’s the day his 20-year-old son Nicolis, a junior at Texas A&M, died of complications from bacterial meningitis 72 hours after being diagnosed with flu-like symptoms at a campus clinic.

Losing our son was without a doubt the worst experience of our lives,” said Greg. “And, to discover later that his death could have been prevented intensifies the pain and guilt we hold in our hearts.”

Due, in part, to Greg’s efforts, Texas colleges now take an active role against the disease. The Jamie Schanbaum Act, named for a University of Texas student who lost her legs and fingers to the disease, was amended in 2011 and became the Jamie Schanbaum and Nicolis Williams Act. The law, which went into effect in 2012, requires that all students under the age of 30 who enroll in any Texas college show evidence that they have received the meningitis vaccine within the 5 years prior to enrollment. The law was a labor of love for both families and TIP was honored to assist.

“With TIP’s considerable help, we’re very proud to have been able to modify the law,” said Greg. “This is a huge and significant accomplishment for future generations of college students in Texas.”

Greg takes comfort in the fact that through the law, other families may be spared the pain of losing a loved one to meningitis.

Because the law is named in association with Nicolis Williams, our son has a legacy and the grief in our hearts is lightened,” said Greg.  “We thank God for blessing us with Nicolis and we thank TIP for keeping his memory alive. Because of your efforts, no other college student in Texas will die or be disfigured from meningitis.”

To learn more about the Jamie Schanbaum and Nicolis Williams Act please visit our website.

Join us on April 24 as we observe World Meningitis Day. We invite you to visit our Facebook page and post comments from your experience with meningitis and why you chose to get your family vaccinated.

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