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Meningitis Vaccine

November 04, 1990

My heartfelt thanks for your Health column on the new vaccine for meningitis ("A Shot in the Arm," by doctors Michael S. Wilkes and Miriam Schuchman, Sept. 16). In 1988, I too was a woman who "ran in with a limp child" into a hospital. My then 17-month-old daughter, Lauren, had been sent home earlier in the day by my pediatrician, who diagnosed her condition as a "bad bug." Even after I explained the high fever, listlessness and absence of both urine and tears and asked for saline to be administered, she was given penicillin and I was told to "monitor" her. I do not know why I didn't create more of a fuss, but I took the prescription and drove home.

Once home, I had my sitter check Lauren every 15 minutes while I went out to get the medicine. After I came back, I went upstairs to look in on her. I remember this next moment in slow-motion: I looked into her crib and saw my daughter dying. Her once cherubic face was sunken and ashen. She did not respond to me and her neck seemed stiff. I then headed to the hospital.

A wonderful and caring intern, whose name I so wished I could remember, examined her for what seemed less than a minute and then asked, "Why didn't you take her to your pediatrician?" He automatically ordered a spinal tap. After the tests had been completed, he diagnosed bacterial meningitis and told me she probably would have slipped into a coma several hours later.

My heart goes out to the parents of the little girl mentioned in the article who suffered residual brain damage. My daughter was hospitalized for 10 days with equally scary outcomes spelled out for me. My daughter made a complete recovery and is now an active and bright "almost-4"-year-old.

At that time, they vaccinated for meningitis at 18 months. I am happy to learn they will now do so at 15. Who knows how many children may be spared the suffering of this disease?

MARGARET SILLIKER WOLF

Santa Clarita

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