Greg and Laurie Seltzer got a call from their 18 year-old daughter, a freshman at San Diego State University, that wasn't totally out of the ordinary. Sara said she had a bad headache that then was followed by exhaustion and nausea.
“We thought it was the flu — we told her to rest and go to the student health center. She was more concerned with missing classes than how bad she felt,” Sara’s father, Greg Stelzer, 63, told Fox News.
But within days, Sara was in the ER, after she developed a blotchy, purple rash--what her parents would learn was a telltale sign of meningitis B. Greg and Laurie got a text from Sara's friend that she was in the ER; by the time they got to the hospital, she was in an induced coma.
After Sara's doctors figured out it was bacterial meningitis, they started her on antibiotics, but it was too late: the infection had spread to her brain and spinal cord, causing her to suffer a stroke. She was brain dead before her parents even arrived.
“In our minds, that was when she passed away,” said Greg. Sara died two days later. “We had no idea that these flu-like symptoms could develop and kill her within 36 hours,” Laurie, 51, said.
Fox explains about the different kinds of meningitis: "Meningococcal disease is primarily caused by five types of meningococcal bacteria — A, C, W, Y and B. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends children between ages 11 and 12 receive a meningococcal conjugate vaccine and receive a booster at 16 to prevent against serogroups A, C, W and Y. In addition, those age 16 to 23 can also receive a serogroup B meningococcal vaccine, the agency added."
Sara got the meningococcal conjugate vaccine her father said, but not the serogroup B meningococcal vaccine, which the CDC recommends "permissive use" of--meaning they don't advise everyone to get it but don't advise against it either.
Greg and his wife are trying to bring the serogroup B vaccine to the forefront of people's attention, in an effort to prevent more tragedies like his daughter's.
“You don't realize how your body and mind is affected by a loss like that — the first year was a fog. My older daughter took a semester off [from college]. We grieved our way, went to support groups and counseling,” Greg shared. But, when the fog lifted, “we felt that we needed to do something.”
Greg explained, “We felt the need to get the word out about this terrible disease and started a campaign to speak at universities. Our story is simple: We tell our story then we present a PowerPoint presentation explaining what meningitis is, what the symptoms are and how at-risk students can protect themselves with the vaccine."
“Prevention is a lot better than dealing with it after it happens — we go to any and every school to try and push for it. Had we known this, Sara would still be with us today,” he said.
“For us, this has been like therapy — it’s Sara’s legacy. It keeps her memory alive,” he continued. “And for us, it has been very rewarding.”
Already, San Diego State University will be making it mandatory, come the 2019 school year, for all students to receive the meningococcal serogroup B vaccine. Greg and Laurie are hoping other universities will do the same.
What do you think of Sara's tragic death and what her parents are trying to do after it? Share your thoughts in the comments! Thank you!