Three and a half years ago, Alicia Stillman lost her daughter, Emily, to meningitis B.
“The hardest thing that you ever have to do in your life is say goodbye to one of your children,” says Alicia, who chairs the Emily Stillman Foundation dedicated towards educating families and young adults on meningitis.
And Alicia felt the heartache again when just a week ago a 21-year old woman in Michigan died of the same disease.
“I feel like I’m living it again, I know what those parents are going through, I know what her friends are going through, I know what’s going on and that’s so so sad for me,” says Stillman.
Doctors are hoping the attention that death has drawn will lead more people to get a fairly new meningitis vaccine, especially now that they can protect against all of the meningitis groups.
Parents may believe their children are protected from all forms of meningitis because they had previously been vaccinated, but until three years ago vaccines only immunized against four of the five groups of meningitis, leaving out the B group, the one that killed Emily Stillman.
And even now, it’s a separate series of shots. Shots doctors like David Walsworth are strongly recommending.
“It’s important that we vaccinate everyone who’s at risk because we won’t have time if we don’t treat it quickly, and if we vaccinate, in most cases, we won’t have to treat,” says Walsworth.
When Stillman’s daughter died, she promised to educate families and people about how to prevent the same thing that happened to her to them.
“I’ll never be able to protect my Emily,” says Stillman, “but there are millions of other Emily’s out there, and we can protect them.”
Stillman is going to work with the sorority of the woman who died last week to educate more about getting vaccinated and preventing any more illness and death.