The morning of Feb. 24, 2004, was one Bob Werner would rather forget. It began when his 20-year-old, college student daughter wasn't feeling well. “Becky had the chills and some fever,” said 55-year-old Werner of Mukwonago, Wisconsin. “I told her she probably had the flu, and to stay home, grab a blanket, and take ibuprofen.”
Becky stayed sick all day. At 1 a.m. the next morning, Bob's wife found Becky moaning on the hallway floor and the same again at 3 a.m. Believing she had the flu, Bob decided he could delay taking her to the hospital until sunrise. When checking on her again at 5 a.m., Bob's wife noticed Becky's eyes had rolled into the back of her head.
At the hospital, her blood pressure was 65/37. Her kidneys shut down first, then her liver, and a doctor mentioned a blood infection. As it turned out, she had a form of bacterial meningitis and soon died. According to the National Institutes of Health, meningitis involves tissue inflammation surrounding the brain and spinal cord.
Werner said, “My wife and I just looked at each other through the tears and said, 'What happened?' Over time, we started the Becky Werner Meningitis Foundation because we thought if we hadn't known about a vaccine that could have prevented meningitis, other families wouldn't know. Becky had a strain of it that was fully preventable by vaccine. If having had the shot, she would be here today.”
Many physicians don't mention the $100 shot because only 3,000 cases pop up annually, he said. Of the 3,000, about 300 die and another 700 acquire a permanent disability, such as sight and hearing loss or amputation.
How he wishes Becky were alive. His daughter had a big smile, was fun-loving, bubbly, athletic, had lots of friends, and was a “daddy's girl,” he said. His daughter's infection had been too far advanced for antibiotics to make any difference.
In part, the Becky Werner Meningitis Foundation invests donated funds into meningitis research at the Medical College of Wisconsin and financially helps affected families accumulating expenses, such as for service dogs. Said Werner, “The Centers for Disease Control recommends that children over age eleven get the shot. I tell parents to get informed and make a decision (about the shot). I don't know who would decide not to do it. I lost a child that way.”