Vanessa Grifford

Born March 15,1980.

Until I came across this website, I had no idea how lucky I was...
 
In early December 1985, I was at home with a babysitter while my parents were out at a Christmas party. I was only 5 years old and had just started kindergarten. My babysitter tried to give me a bath and I was screaming uncontrollably, saying my back hurt. The babysitter called my parents to come home, but in the mean time, I started throwing up violently. My parents wanted to keep an eye on me throughout the night, but they didn't want to put me in bed with them, so they laid me on the couch and slept on the floor next to me. In the middle of the night, my parents awoke to a smell they still describe to me as "death". After searching the house to locate the smell, they realized I had lost control of my bowels and had defecated myself. My mom called her mom and the two of them rushed me to the hospital.
 
When I arrived, my temperature was 108. The doctor took one look at my stomach, found the purplish rash and told my mom "call your family, call your pastor, she is not going to make it through the night". I can't imagine ever hearing those words. I was immediately admitted to ICU and faded in & out of consciousness. I've been told I was given my last rights on 3 different occasions. Any one I had been in contact with was put on antibiotics - my family, my classmates, my neighbors.
 
I don't remember much about my hospital stay, except that my kindergarten teacher came to visit me every day. My dad promised to bring a Christmas tree to my room if I wasn't released by Christmas. The doctors told my parents that IF I survived, and it was a very big IF, I would most likely be severely brain-damaged from the high fever, blind, deaf, mute and paraplegic. For reasons unknown to anyone, my meningitis literally ate its way out of my body. I had large scabs on my lower body and when those scabs came loose, there were gaping wounds where you could see straight to the bone. The doctors were astounded - they had never seen meningococcemia act this way. If it hadn't, I honestly don't think I would be here today.
 
On Christmas Eve 1985, I was allowed to go home. My parents chose not to tell my family... they wanted to surprise everyone. I will never forget pulling into my grandma's driveway and seeing her standing in the kitchen window preparing Christmas dinner. She dropped everything and ran to meet me at the car. I wasn't able to walk, so my dad carried me inside. At 5 years old, I didn't fully understand how close I was death or what a miracle it really was.
 
Now, at 25, I have absolutely zero lasting effects from my battle with meningococcemia. No one ever knows how sick I was unless they see the scars on my legs. I have some pretty nasty scars from where the scabs were, but I consider those my battle wounds. My parents were given the option of cosmetic surgery when I released from the hospital, but they figured "if this is the worst of it, we'll take it". They were happy that I was alive and didnít want to subject me to any more medical procedures. The one scar I have looks just like a pair of lips, and at 5 years old, I told my grandma "this is where Jesus kissed me and made me better". I don't think I had ever seen her cry so hard.
 
I can't possibly put into words the hell my family went through, not knowing if I would make it another hour. My condolences go out to every parent that has lost a child to this fatal disease. My best wishes go out to all of the survivors.