There are few words of wisdom more powerful or heartfelt than those of a parent who has experienced tragedy through the injury or loss of a child. As parents we all want our children to be happy and healthy and when tragedy strikes, words cannot express the heartbreak that ensues. Earlier this week Patsy Schanbaum and Greg Williams, parents of Jamie Schanbaum and Nicolis Williams, shared the painful lesson they each learned when their children were diagnosed with bacterial meningitis.
Patsy and Greg explain that they did all they could to prepare their children to be successful and thrive in their studies, but one important piece of the puzzle was forgotten; vaccination against meningitis—a disease most common among college students. Jamie endured the amputation of half of both legs and fingers on both hands while Nicolis’ life ended tragically just days after he was admitted to the hospital for this aggressive vaccine-preventable disease. In 2011, the Texas Legislature enacted legislation creating a new requirement that all entering college students be vaccinated against the disease that caused so much pain and suffering for these, and other families. This new law, named in honor of Nicolis’ life and to recognize Jamie’s physical suffering will save the lives of countless Texas college students.
While drawing attention to the real life consequences of meningitis, another key aspect of this article was intended to draw attention to the fact that the Texas Department of State Health Services recently removed the meningitis vaccine from the list of shots provided to low-income college students. This cut in funding further complicates the ability of thousands of students who are already in financial need to receive the vaccine and will force them to obtain it at a potentially higher cost. Knowing all too well the importance of protection from this disease, both Patsy and Greg are asking that the Texas Legislature maintain their focus in order to protect our college students and restore funding for low-income students, and also calling for our colleges and universities to have the “public and private support they need to efficiently and cheaply immunize their students.”
As parents all over the nation are tearfully packing boxes and preparing words of wisdom filled with years of important life lessons, we should all be thankful that The Jamie Schanbaum and Nicolis Williams Act is firmly set in place to give the parents of college students one less worry. Listen to the words of these parents who have suffered at the hands of this preventable disease so that we may “do everything in our power to ensure that other Texas families have the positive college experiences their children so richly deserve.”