WEST BLOOMFIELD, Mich. – When Emily Stillman called home in 2013 and told her parents she had a horrible headache, her family had no idea their child would be dead 24 hours later.
Stillman, who was 19, was a student at Kalamazoo College when she fell sick with meningitis. What outraged her already grieving family was that it was all preventable. There was a vaccine that guarded against meningitis-B, but it wasn’t available in the Unites States — though Canada had it.
Emily’s mother, Alicia, wasn’t going to let her daughter’s loss count for nothing. Alicia and her family started the Emily Stillman Foundation, which advocates for meningitis vaccination and organ donation.
Alicia went to work. She walked the halls of Congress to tell Emily’s story. She demanded the FDA get its act together and get the vaccine here in the United States.
Now the vaccine is available and Alicia still isn’t done. She met with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, which has sent out updated vaccination guidelines for college-age students and included is the Men-B vaccine.
“The State of Michigan was incredibly helpful,” Alicia said.
MDHHS now advocates that universities have the Men-B vaccination as readily accessible to students as the flu shot.
She still isn’t done. Alicia is now lobbying Lansing to make vaccinations a condition of enrollment in college. It is going to be a heavy lift, but Alicia said it’s worth it. She never wants another family to deal with the loss hers has.
“We’re going to see it in my lifetime,” she said. “I’m going to look up at my daughter and say look what we did.”