On Jan. 31, 2013, Emily Stillman called her mother about a headache. Less than 36 hours later, the 19-year-old college sophomore was unconscious in a Michigan hospital.
“I told her, ‘It’s okay. You can go,’ ” Alicia Stillman tells PEOPLE, her voice cracking as she recalls sitting next to her daughter’s hospital bed. “I’ll be strong. I promise you, I will be your voice. This will not happen to other people.”
Emily died from meningitis B, a bacterial disease that can be prevented with a vaccine but is not available in the United States. Recent outbreaks at Princeton University and the University of California in Santa Barbara have forced health officials to take emergency action and administer the vaccine, which is currently available in Canada.