A four-month old boy has died just one day after he began exhibiting symptoms of meningitis.
Alexa Dempsey of Chesterfield, Va. had just picked her son Killy Schultz up from daycare when she noticed he was running a fever.
“He had just eaten his bottle for the afternoon,” Dempsey told WTVR news. “He was a little warm but we figured it was a warm day so get him home and let him cool off.”
After giving their son Tylenol Dempsey and her fiancée, Gabriel Schultz took Killy to St. Mary’s Hospital in Richmond, Va. After a series of tests, doctors diagnosed Killy with meningitis, and admitted him to the pediatric intensive care unit.
With a fever and a rash that was spreading over his little body, the parents became fearful for Killy.
Just two days earlier, Killy had received his four-month immunization at his doctor’s office. Health officials advised the parents that their son most likely contracted meningitis after being exposed to an unvaccinated, asymptomatic carrier at their pediatrician’s office.
“The moment they said meningitis I knew there was a really strong possibility that we were going to lose him,” a grieving Dempsey revealed. “They told us they were going to hit the window if he was going to make it or not, but being he was only four months old, he didn’t really have an immune system to help us with that.”
Meningitis occurs when the fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord becomes infected, and begins to swell.
Although there are multiple strains, viral and bacterial meningitis are the most common. Although serious, viral meningitis is less severe, and can be treated by receiving medical attention, with some healthy immune systems completely fighting the virus within seven to ten days.
Bacterial meningitis is the most dangerous and life-threatening strain of meningococcal disease that requires immediate emergency medical attention. Symptoms of bacterial meningitis develop quickly, often three to seven days after exposure and include fever, headache, stiff neck, nausea, vomiting and sensitivity to light.
Although anyone can contract the illness, babies and children are most susceptible to developing bacterial meningitis. Babies with meningitis may become irritable, have trouble feeding, or have an enlarged soft spot (fontanelle). A number of antibiotics can be used to treat bacterial meningitis, but timing plays a crucial factor.
For Killy Dempsey, as time went on, his symptoms progressed.
“He was still trying to make little sounds, but he had a hard time opening his eyes and his blood pressure was very low. He wasn’t doing well at all,” Dempsey said. “Just out of the blue his heart rate dropped, and they started to do CPR and after 10 minutes of CPR you don’t come back from that, so we had to tell them to stop.”
Killy Schultz died on June 30, less than than 24 hours after symptoms of bacterial meningitis began to appear.
“He was so swollen and purple, and it really didn’t look like him anymore, but I still hold him to tell him how beautiful he was, and he was far more than I ever deserved to have, and I told him how hard he had fought, and that we were so proud of him,” Dempsey recalled.
The Virginia Department of Health is investigating Schultz’s death, and have provided preventative treatment for anyone who may have been exposed to the illness, including the children in Killy’s daycare.
In the United States, the CDC recommends that all 11 to 12 year olds receive the meningococcal conjugate disease and a booster dose at the age of 16 to prevent themselves from contracting meningitis.
In Canada, meningococcal disease vaccines are commonly given to infants anywhere from two months to 12 months of age. A publicly funded program to administer meningococcal vaccines to Ontario grade 7 students was launched in 2005 and has since been expanded to include vaccinations against different strains of the disease.
Last month, Lily Mueller of Ottawa died after contracting bacterial meningitis. Like Killy Schultz, the 23-year-old health-club worker died less than 24 hours after she began complaining of a sore throat, fever and stiff neck.
In Mueller’s case, during her first trip to the emergency room, doctors provided an uncertain diagnosis of her symptoms, and sent her home with a prescription for penicillin. Hours later, Mueller was admitted to intensive care and received an aggressive round of antibiotics. However, Mueller became septic, and passed away.
Although meningitis can be prevented with vaccines, a new study from the C.D Howe Institute found that vaccination rates for communicable diseases among Canadian adults are much lower than the recommended targets.
Many adults are seemingly unaware that they require boosters for illnesses to ensure they remain protected from illnesses such as whooping cough, meningitis. While immunizations are a common topic of discussion for infants and children, all adults are advised to speak to their family doctor to ensure they are up-to-date on their immunizations and boosters.
In the midst of their personal tragedy, Dempsey and Schultz hope to raise awareness, so that others can protect themselves against, and stop the unnecessary spread of the disease that took their son’s life.
“If anything comes out of this we want people to be aware that vaccinations can prevent things like this. Vaccines aren’t just for kids they’re for adults too. He was just a baby, so he really didn’t have much of a chance,” said Dempsey.
The family has set up a GoFundMePage to assist with funeral expenses.