Viagra Used to Treat Rare Meningitis Attack, Student Fights for Her Life

Lin said the nerve tissue in her feet and fingers had died before he was able to treat them, so amputation is unavoidable. Her surgery is scheduled for Friday and she will be eligible for prosthetics in the future, Lin said.

As for how Jamie is coping with her upcoming surgery, her mother said she's "accepting of it."

"It still hurts her and she still goes through the 'Why me's?'" she said. "But she's a strong girl and has a lot of loving family and friends supporting her."

Meningococcemia 101

According to Dr. William Schaffner, the chairman of preventive medicine at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville, Tenn., the theme of Jamie's story is all too familiar.

Schaffner says that it's not unusual to see otherwise healthy young adults think they're coming down with a seasonal cold or flu and just hours later find themselves in a far more serious situation.

"This is an infection that can begin and present itself to the individual and really just look and feel like the flu," Schaffner said. "But then it can rage on and become really ferocious in a matter of hours."

Schaffner says that vaccines are strongly recommended for people entering college because the activities they typically pursue raise their chances of contracting the disease.

"These sorts of bugs live in our throats and are transmitted from person to person through human contact or rather close contact," Schaffner said. "There are a number of activities students engage in that are shown to predispose them to this: smoking, going to bars or being places where they're all jammed in together, for example."

Bacteria that cause the different strains of meningitis, said Schaffner, often live in our throats for weeks and sometimes even months without developing into anything serious.

But a bad cold or even throat inflammation from smoking a cigarette can "provide an open door for the bacteria to get into the bloodstream," Schaffner said.

While a meningitis vaccine is available, it is not required for college students. Even so, Schaffner said he "strongly recommends" anyone about to enter college get the vaccine.

"There are no major side effects other than a little sore arm," said Schaffner, who added that many doctors are giving the vaccine to children as young as 11. "It's obviously worth it to get it."

And not making sure her daughter got the vaccine is something Schanbaum says she deeply regrets.

"My other two daughters got the vaccine," Schanbaum said, "but Jamie didn't; she opted out."

Now, Schanbaum said she has essentially moved into her suffering daughter's hospital room and spends every moment with her.

"It's horrible," Schanbaum said in a phone interview from her daughter's hospital room in Houston. "I have to be strong but it breaks my heart.

"Last night, Jamie told me that she's afraid of dying," she said. "It's just so hard to believe how this can happen to your child."

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