West Bloomfield, MI- Emily Stillman was a sophomore at Kalamazoo College in Kalamazoo, Michigan when she tragically contracted Bacterial Meningitis. On February 2nd 2013, after just 36 hours in the hospital, Emily passed away with her family by her side. Emily was able to donate 6 of her organs to 5 recipients, along with tissue and bones to countless others. “February 2nd, I will have to live through the third anniversary of Emily’s death. It has been three years of sadness. Three years of crying. Three years of wishing I could feel her hug one more time, stated Alicia Stillman, Emily’s mom. “Three years of not hearing her voice. Three years of grieving for the loss of what was, and what will never be.”
Alicia whispered in Emily’s ear and said good-bye that day and made her sweet 19 year old daughter a promise. “I promised her I would somehow figure out how this could have happened and I would fix it. I would be her voice, and I would make sure that this would not happen to anyone else,” expressing the promised made by Alicia. Shortly after The Emily Stillman Foundation, a 501(c) (3), began to raise awareness for meningococcal disease and organ donation.
This tragedy should have been prevented. Emily had been protected by being vaccinated against four of the five serogroups of Meningococcal Disease. She had received the conjugate vaccine at ages 11 and again at 17, just as recommendations dictate. However, this vaccine only protected her against Serogroups A, C, W and Y – NOT B. The vaccine that would have protected Emily was not yet available in the United States. IT IS NOW. Recommendations have been approved.
Every single day Alicia Stillman advocates through The Emily Stillman Foundation for this vaccine. The MenB Forever Emily PSA released on Tuesday, February 2nd is one more attempt to reach parents. It is one more attempt to get parents to learn from this tragedy. It is one more attempt to get young people to be aware of the symptoms. It is one more attempt to educate the medical community. “This PSA is not actors playing a role. It is not funded by a pharmaceutical company trying to sell vaccines,” said Alicia as to why this is so important. “It is my gut wrenching story – filmed at Emily’s grave and at the funeral home where I said my final goodbye. I describe in my own words with my own voice what I learned and how other families can avoid living my nightmare.”