Jamie Schanbaum was in her first semester at the University of Texas when one night in early November 2008, she started not feeling well. She was cold, vomiting and tired.
She thought she had the flu. She didn’t.
“I was in a lot of pain, shivering down to my bones, and my hands and feet hurt to touch anything. As the night went on, I felt worse and worse until I could barely walk,” Schanbaum remembers. “Luckily, my sister called the next morning to offer me a ride to school and I asked her to take me to the hospital instead.”
In 24 hours, Schanbaum went from being healthy and free-spirited to being in the hospital, eventually spending the holidays in a semi-medicated coma. At just 20 years old, she had contracted meningococcal disease, a type of bacterial meningitis, an uncommon but potentially deadly disease.
Schanbaum didn’t leave the hospital for seven months. During that time, she developed a rash that is a tell-tale sign of meningococcal septicemia, or blood poisoning. Her limbs changed color from red to purple to black. Ultimately, she had to have both legs below the knee and fingers on both her hands amputated.
“When I got out of the hospital, I didn’t recognize myself. I had lost almost all of my hair, lost a lot of weight and was in a wheelchair due to my amputations,” she said.
Once she healed and was fitted for prosthetics, she started competitive cycling. In 2011, she won a gold medal in the USA Cycling Paralympic Road National Championships.
Despite her impressive achievements as a para-athlete, her real passion is educating parents and young people about meningitis. Today Schanbaum is a spokesperson for GSK, a meningitis advocate and founder of a nonprofit organization, The J.A.M.I.E. Group.
“I learned about meningitis the hard way and it changed the course of my entire life,” she said. “I want to share with others the information I didn’t have and encourage them to talk to their doctors about meningitis vaccination.”
Did You Know:
In the U.S., about one in 10 people infected with meningitis will die, while one in five survivors will suffer long-term consequences, which may include deafness, nervous system problems, brain damage or loss of limbs.Early symptoms may appear mild – similar to those of a cold or the flu – but can progress quickly and can be fatal, sometimes within 24 hours.In the U.S., while most (>70 percent) young people have received the vaccine that helps protect against four groups of meningitis (serogroups A, C, W and Y), to date, more than 90 percent of 16- to 23-year-olds have not received the meningitis B vaccine.Serogroup B meningitis causes approximately 30 percent of U.S. cases of meningococcal disease.Two different types of vaccines are needed to help protect against the five vaccine-preventable groups of meningitis.Vaccination may not protect all recipients.Vaccine-preventable diseases, such as bacterial meningitis, are continuing to impact our communities, including in our schools and on college campuses. Young adults are at increased risk for meningitis because they often live, work and play in settings that foster close contact. With many teens and young adults on holiday break from high school and college, now is an ideal time to set up medical appointments to talk to their doctors about the vaccinations they may need.
Visit meningitis.com for more information.
 CDC. Chapter 8: Meningococcal Disease. April 2014. Available at https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/pubs/surv-manual/chpt08-mening.html Page 1, Paragraph 1, Line 1.
 CDC. Meningococcal Disease: Signs and Symptoms. June 2017. Available at https://www.cdc.gov/meningococcal/about/symptoms.html Page 1, Paragraph 4, Lines 1-13.
 CDC. Meningococcal Disease: Technical and Clinical Information. July 2017. Available at http://www.cdc.gov/meningococcal/clinical-info.html Page 1, Paragraphs 3-4.
 Cleveland Clinic. Disease & Conditions: Bacterial Meningitis. No date. Available at: http://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases_conditions/hic_Bacterial_Meningitis. Page 1, Paragraph 5, Lines 1-4.
 GSK, data on file.
 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Manual for the Surveillance of Vaccine-Preventable Diseases: Chapter 8: Meningococcal Disease. April 2014. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/pubs/surv-manual/chpt08-mening.html. Page 1, Paragraph 3, Line 2.
 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Risk Factors. March 2017. Available at http://www.cdc.gov/meningococcal/about/risk-factors.html. Page 1, Paragraphs 1-2.