When Sarah and Aaron Parkyn found out that their little girl had meningitis, they were in complete shock. Not just because they realized that their daughter was currently fighting for her life but also because they had her vaccinated to protect her from enduring this very situation.
After 4-year-old Jazmyn spiked a fever during the night, her parents initially thought that she was coming down with the same flu that had been going around the family. But when Sarah tried to comfort the toddler the next morning — after she awoke groggy and lethargic — the mom-of-three immediately began to worry because Jazmyn started screaming in pain from the slightest touch. "She couldn't stand anything touching her legs. She just kept screaming," Sarah told Daily Mail. "I noticed a couple of marks on her legs, but it just looked like a heat rash."
Within hours of arriving at the hospital, Jazmyn suffered from a seizure and was put in the intensive care unit as dark spots began spreading from her chest to all over her body. During her month stay in the hospital, the little girl had to undergo 15 different skin grafts to help replace the dead tissue covering her ravaged legs.
Her terrified parents took the diagnosis even harder because they had no idea that all of her immunizations didn't protect her from the meningococcal B strain. In the family's hometown of Renmark, South Australia, the vaccine that would've spared Jazmyn from this suffering is only available privately, and her parents are sharing their story because they claim that doctors never mentioned the option of paying for additional vaccines.
"At the moment, you have to pay for it privately, which we would have done, had we known. All those times we'd been to the doctors to discuss immunizations, and nobody ever mentioned it," Sarah explained. "This disease can cost people their lives or limbs or cause major scarring. Shouldn't that be enough of a reason to put it on the national immunization program?"
Up until recently in the United States, the meningitis B vaccine was only recommended for people at a high risk for contracting the disease, like college students and lab workers. The Centers For Disease Control and Prevention's vaccine committee has now expanded its recommendation and advises that all people between the ages of 16 and 23 consider being vaccinated. According to the CDC, all children in the US at 11 to 12 years old should receive a shot to protect against four other strains of bacterial meningitis: serogroups A, C, W, and Y, as well as a booster dose at 16 years old. The vaccines that protect against serogroup B have more recently been approved by the Food and Drug Administration.
"She was completely up to date with her immunizations, but we had no idea that this didn't include being covered against the B strain," Sarah added. "We just want to make sure nobody else goes through what we have."
These are the common symptoms of meningitis in babies and children that parents should be aware of:
- A tense or bulging soft spot
- A high fever (but can run normal-low in babies under 3 months)
- Cold hands and feet
- A dislike of being picked up
- A sleepy expression or too sleepy to wake up
- Rapid breathing or trouble breathing
- "Pink prick" rash marks or purple bruises
- An unusual grunting noise
- Vomiting or refusing to eat
- Pale or blotchy skin
- A stiff or floppy body
- Limb or joint pain