How Meningococcal Disease Changed a Mother’s Life

On a beautiful April day, my family and I walked to the park and enjoyed a wonderful evening together. My husband, myself, our four boys, and our puppy returned home and fell asleep that evening, not knowing that all of our lives were about to take a drastic turn in a few hours.

The next morning, I woke with what I thought were flu symptoms – fever, headache, chills, and body aches, which progressed to nausea, vomiting, and light sensitivity in a few hours. Hours later, I awoke from a nap with cold feet – so cold they felt like they were in a freezer. I took a hot bath and then laid in misery in the hallway, confused and dazed. I tried to find something to warm my feet. I passed out multiple times during this process. At about 3 am, 20 hours into the illness, I woke my husband, who saw the purple rash spreading all over my body.

Alarmed, we headed to the hospital. When I got to there, I was nearly dead, with multiple organs already failing. I was diagnosed with meningococcal meningitis and blood infection. The doctors had to put me into a coma. I was given a 2 percent chance to survive, and remained in a coma for 3 1/2 weeks.

After I woke up, it was determined my legs would both need to be amputated. My kidneys were starting to look better, as was my liver. My hands, face, and arms had been saved. I’ve been recovering for three years, and now I feel I am just about done. I am not the same person who went into a coma in 2007. Every day, I wake up and put on my prosthetic legs and start my day. I have to take medication to manage the depression, the anxiety, and the noise around me. I have learned to adapt to memory impairment, hearing problems, and mild cognitive difficulties.

Meningitis affects the whole family system, and for a survivor, it is never over. I am working hard to educate the public about this deadly disease that I had never even heard of. It is my passion to let others know they should be vaccinated, especially vulnerable adults. I was without a spleen and never knew I should have been vaccinated against this deadly disease.

I am blessed to be alive and celebrate every day. It breaks my heart to hear of others who have suffered as I have, but together we can make a difference.

Maggi Pivovar
Meningococcal Disease Survivor
Prairie Village, KS