Sean Anthony Cononie

It was December 24th, late on Christmas Eve, when I left to drive to Jacksonville. I arrived there early on Christmas day. I was feeling a little sick and slept most of Christmas day. On December 26th I went to the doctor with a high fever and severe neck pain, the pain was so severe that I could hardly move my neck at all.  The doctor said I had the flu. The next day my fever became even higher and I went back to the doctor I went to the day before. Once again he said I had the flu.  Keep in mind, I could not move my neck, my fever was somewhere around 103.5, my ear hurt badly and I was vomiting. All of what I now know are typical signs of Meningitis. After I left his office and within a few hours I had a fever of 105.5, went into a coma and was placed in critical care. The flu misdiagnosed by the doctor,  had become a really deadly disease.  After the ambulance brought me to the hospital I remember only bits and pieces of what happened from that point on. After the fact, others told me that I spent several days in critical care and was a complete mad man during my pre-coma. My medical records state that I was thrashing around the emergency room saying ďOh my GodĒ, over and over again. I guess it was the best call of my life because I truly believe God spared me. The things I remember the most while I was in my comatose state are very interesting. I saw two little African American boys at my feet. Each one held one of my feet and laid their foreheads on top of my shins, as if they were both not only holding onto me but also praying for me. When I woke up I asked who the little boys were, not one person knew what I was talking about. Let me mention here that I suffer from another condition called Restless Leg Syndrome, which makes my legs move violently when I am attempting to fall asleep. All during the time I was in the coma I was trying to make sure I did not kick the little boys at my feet. I believe those little boys were angels that were sent to pray for my recovery. Let me further say that I believe 100 percent that those boys were sent to me by God and not one person can tell me differently.

 When Lois arrived at the hospital in Jacksonville they were taking the tube from my mouth and I had just awakened. Apparently, I asked both my mom and Lois if they saw the Virgin Mary. Lois said, why did you see the Virgin Mary? And I said yes. I do not remember asking either of them this question but I must have because they both told me I said this. Even though I consider myself a Catholic, I seldom pray in remembrance of the Virgin Mary. So I am honored that she visited me. I also remember thinking to myself that I can certainly take the pain I was going through, if Jesus took the severity of pain He took for all of us. I remember telling God that I was not ready to die and at the same time I asked him for forgiveness. After coming out of the coma and being moved from the critical care unit to a regular room, I could not lift my head much less see clearly. The brain swelling that I had had from the meningitis and lack of fast treatment when the doctor misdiagnosed me, left me cross eyed, with hearing loss, balance loss, a loss of taste, and no control over my facial nerves as well as some other impairments began to make me think.

At first, I felt badly having to deal with all these disabilities. But then it hit me that I was alive. Therefore, why should I concern myself with that fact that I might be left with a few handicaps? 

Today, I just hang out at the shelter, so that Lois and the gang can help take care of me.  My eyes are still weak, and at times I see double or even triple. I have headaches, my balance is off, and I am quite dizzy all day long. I tried driving four times since the coma and will not consider driving again in fear of hitting some other car or hurting someone. My eyesight is just not what it used to be! My biggest problem right now is because I thought I had the flu when I had actually almost died from meningitis, is that I now take my temperature all day long. I guess the experience was pretty traumatic. If my normal temperature of 98.6 goes up to 99 degrees I become fearful that I am going to die in two days. I guess thatís because it took only two days for me to go into the coma.

After I got back to South Florida I tried going on the Internet to look up meningitis. My lack of coordination and weakened eyesight failed to let me research it. So Lois completed the search. I soon found out that there are many people who die of meningitis because they thought or their doctor thought they had the flu.

 Shortly after getting back I went to a physical therapist, he told me his little girl died of meningitis for the same reasonÖ a misdiagnosis. So, after my experience with meningitis, researching it, and hearing various tales I threw out this idea to staff. How about starting an awareness campaign about meningitis? Everyone agreed it would be a great idea. This article is the start of what we will be doing to educate the public about meningitis. We want to educate people everywhere, especially those who are in low-income areas.

In many cases all it takes is a simple blood test to see how high your white blood count is. If itís high they can start you on strong antibiotics to prevent the meningitis from progressing. My blood count was141,000 (thatís real high) and I now know the first doctor I saw should have used better judgment. I also learned that some children have died waiting in the hospital ER because the flu that doctors suspected was really meningitis and it was not treated as quickly as it should have been. One of the things I read about on the Internet said when it comes to suspecting meningitis donít try to find the best hospital, just get to the nearest hospital. Because the earlier itís treated the higher chance of survival you have. More importantly, quick treatment will eliminate the chance of leaving you with less severe disabilities than I now have. Doctors today need to start doing blood work when they believe someone has the flu. This will prevent moms and dads from loosing little ones. Especially when children are under the age of 2 and cannot describe their symptoms. A parent never gets over the death of a child. I donít want you to think that every time your child has symptoms of meningitis that you should go into panic mode, I just want parents to be aware and have the knowledge to ask their doctor to have some simple blood work done. Even if you need to bypass your doctor and go straight to the emergency room and basically tell the ER doctor to make sure blood work is done. Do it! Thatís what my mom did; she asked the doctors if they were sure it wasnít meningitis? If she hadnít asked, I wonder if they would have taken any blood tests at all. At first, the doctors at the clinic thought I picked up something on my mission trip to Haiti, but then treated me for meningitis.   

One last  thought, if you now know how many people in the USA die of Meningitis, stop and ask the question, how many die in third world countries?

Written By Lois Cross &  Cathy Freites for Sean Cononie

 A personal note from Sean.

When I got back to south Florida I went to the funeral of John Coleman, a former Hollywood City commissioner. I sat in the church and said why does God let people die. It is so sad to see how the families suffer. Then I looked at myself and thought about how I almost died and reevaluated my life. I realized, people need to always be right with their MakerÖ their God, because death can come at any time. I think funerals were created to remind us of things like being right with God.  No matter how many people I feed or house each day thatís not what will get me to heaven; itís being right with God that will get me there. So re-evaluate your life and begin each day giving praise to God for life and for those who are suffering. Pray for the sick and the ones who donít know Him, so that one-day your prayers just might get them to know God. After all we should all be able to enjoy the rewards of heaven.

 

Since my illness I have started an organization to help advocate early diagnosis of this deadly disease. Our goals are to educate as many as we can to stop the frequent misdiagnosis.

For more information check out  www.meningitisawareness.org.

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Notes to Sean

 

Dear Sean,

What a privilege to have you as part of our Angels family. You are an inspiration to me and those of us who have lived through and lost because of this deadly disease.  Countless lives are changed each year. How many tears must we cry before they listen?

Obviously, Sean, God was not through with you. He has added to your work with the homeless and the other mission work you had already. I believe he never lets us go through a storm that their is not a rainbow on the other side.  I pray He will fill your days ahead and place many rainbows in your skies. Welcome to the family.... Frankie, HBA Ryan's mom

~~ God's Promise ~~
God didn't promise days without pain, laughter without sorrow or sun without rain.
But God did promise strength for the day, comfort for the tears and a light for the way,
And for all who believe in His kingdom above,
He answers their faith with everlasting love. Author Unknown

Sean, Through God you are such a light to so many. We  pray God's promise for you today

From Frankie and Bob Milley, Ryan's parents

Hi Sean- I want you to know how thankful that I am for your life! You have
already helped Leiloni and I in many ways.  Your work is wonderful and I am
in awe of how you keep it up after being so ill.  Please know that you are in our thoughts and prayers.
God Bless and Keep you, Christi - mother to EBA Leiloni