Meningitis survivor raises awareness

By Rachel McNeill - Anchor

HOUSTON - Meningitis is a life-threatening disease that claims the lives of tens of thousands of people around the world every year. Meningitis is preventable.

Jamie Schanbaum knows all too well the power of meningitis.

"It takes a healthy person and can kill them within hours," Schanbaum said.

The Dallas native survived a bout with meningitis in 2008, which claimed both her legs and all her fingers.

She's since devoted her life to raising awareness about meningitis, even helping pass new laws in Texas requiring college students to get vaccinated against the disease.

Schanbaum explained, "Once you get meningitis, there's no going back. You can't really clean it up. The only way you can protect yourself is through the vaccine."

On World Meningitis Day, Jamie has joined forces with Lynn Bozof, president of the National Meningitis Association.

Fourteen years ago, Bozof lost her 20-year-old son, Evan, to the disease.

"He called me one day with what he thought was a migraine," Bozof said. "The emergency room doctors told us he had a little virus and would be fine. The next morning, we get a phone call that he has a five percent chance of survival."

In less than a month, Evan's arms and legs were amputated. His organs shut down. Soon after, he was taken off life support.

The early symptoms of meningitis are often mistaken for flu: fever, headache, stiff neck, nausea, vomiting and sensitivity to light.

Left untreated, the disease progresses rapidly.

That's why the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends people seek medical attention before it's too late.

Schanbaum is now in training to compete in the 2012 Paralympics Cycling team in London.

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