On November 13, 2008, Jamie Schanbaum, then 20 years old and enjoying the life of a typical college student, was feeling ill. Her symptoms were similar to those of the common flu but within 14 hours she was admitted to a hospital, in Austin, TX. Two days later, doctors explained that her lack of feeling in her extremities and discolored limbs were because she had contracted meningococcal disease.
Meningococcal disease is a rare but aggressive bacterial infection that can be fatal or cause serious life-long disability. Within 24 hours of onset of symptoms about 10-15% of those affected with meningococcal disease will die and about 11-19% of survivors, like Jamie, will suffer from long-term consequences.
“Meningococcal disease is not something you can walk into the doctor’s office and get a prescription for,” said Jamie “it can be life changing.” Jamie’s recovery took seven months before she learned to walk again.
Jamie often thought “why did this happen to me?” but that soon translated to “why does this have to keep happening to anyone at all?”
Since leaving the hospital, Jamie has shown tremendous strength and perseverance as she endeavors to promote awareness of meningococcal disease and its consequences. In the summer of 2009, Senate Bill 819, also known as The Jamie Schanbaum Act, requiring meningococcal (A, C, W, Y) vaccination of college students, passed despite two previous unsuccessful attempts.
There are now two vaccines available that cover all five meningococcal disease serogroups (A, C, W, Y and B).The CDC recently updated recommendations surrounding serogroup B vaccination.
Although it is rare to contract meningococcal disease, it is important to know that it can be much more serious than a cold or the flu and that it can be life changing.
In Jamie’s spare time she became a paralympian cyclist. This hobby turned into one of Jamie’s passions when she won a gold medal in the 2011 US Paralympic cycling games. Jamie said she even surprised herself because she had not been particularly athletic before she got sick.
“This new chapter of my life has been unlike any other,” said Jamie. “The unexpected that I thought the worst of, had now made my life so fulfilling.”
Jamie now travels the country as an advocate, sharing her personal story with the hope of motivating others to learn the risk factors, signs and symptoms of meningococcal disease and encouraging others to talk to their healthcare professionals about vaccination.
Early last December, Jamie joined GSK leaders, bloggers, and other patient advocates in New York City for a roundtable discussion to spark a dialogue between parents and their children about meningococcal disease over the winter break. She also uses her organization, the JAMIE (Joint Advocacy for Meningococcal Information and Education) group to continue raising awareness and widen the message that there is now a meningococcal B vaccine available.
“I hope parents and their children are including vaccination as a part of their family health conversation,” said Jamie. “I want to make sure as many teens as possible get the benefit of meningococcal vaccination.”
- Jamie Schanbaum is a paid Spokesperson for GSK. This story is representative of Jamie’s experience with the disease and is not typical of all patients’ experiences with meningococcal disease.
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