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Keely Horch lived a life of fun and excitement, until one day, where “she could not touch her chin to her chest.” Now, Tracy and David Horch must watch their fun 12-year-old daughter fight the consequences of meningitis. They struggle with this new reality as Keely “can’t move anything right now except for her… eyes, her mouth, and her nose.” Appropriately, Keely, a girl with spunk and energy still can smile.

Even though the doctors aren’t so sure, this smile reassures her parents that “she’s going to kick this.” Keely has a “go-getter” attitude, or as her Go Fund Me page “Caring for Keely” fondly outlines she’s a “soccer player, runner, cupcake and cake baker, animal lover, [and] devoted friend.”

The Go Fund Me is just one way the community is helping Keely and her parents get through this debilitating disease. David Horch “was at a prayer vigil and [the community] filled the church,” he sees it as proof that Keely’s strength has “touched the heart of so many people.”

Keely visits “a doctor every year,” her dad pleads to the camera; they stress that they vaccinated her. However, the disease, which has put her in the intensive care unit at John Hopkins, prevails. For some, Keely’s story makes us question the validity of vaccines, while for others it highlights the importance of them because without them there might be more girls “loved by so many,” and with “heart[s] of gold” that would have a sad story just like hers.

Signs and Symptoms of Viral Meningitis

Viral Meningitis is the more common but not as severe form of meningitis. It is spread through saliva, direct contact with feces, and nasal mucus, but our body should fight it off in 7 to 10 days. [xii]

Fever-like symptoms is one sign that you have viral Meningitis as your body  fights off the infection.[i]

These symptoms can lead to more severe issues like:[ii]

  • Sudden fever
  • Stiff neck
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Light sensitivity

If you have these symptoms, check with your doctor to make sure it isn’t the more severe bacterial meningitis as they share symptoms.[iii] [iv]

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The Dangers of Bacterial Meningitis

Severe headaches from Meningitis

This is the more fatal and dangerous form of meningitis and, therefore, is most likely to be the one Keely had.

Bacterial Meningitis is most commonly caused by:

  • Neisseria meningitides bacterium or Meningococcus
  • Streptococcus pneumonia,
  • Haemophilus influenzae Type B

Neisseria meningitidis and Streptococcus pneumoniae are the leading causes of Bacterial meningitis. 

The Streptococcus pneumonia bacteria is not contagious while Meningococcus is. About 5 to 20 percent of the population carries Meningococcus on the back of their throats without having any effects, and mainly spreading it through saliva by kissing, and coughing. Other meningitis-causing bacteria can spread through contaminated foods and from mothers to their babies during birth. [v] [xiii]

Meningococcus has six common strains: A, B, C, W, X, and Y. These strains move to our brain from our throats through tears in its lining, slipping into our blood stream. Before long, these bacteria replicate and flow into the protective tissue surrounding our brains, causing inflammation and putting pressure on our nervous system. Inflammation from this bacteria can also occur through “an ear or sinus infection, a skull fracture, or, rarely, after some surgeries.” [vi]

The symptoms of Meningitis can happen quickly like they did in Keely. These symptoms include: [vii]

  • Fever of about 102°F or 103°F
  • Stiff neck
  • Severe headache

With developed meningitis, you will experience:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Confusion
  • A purple rash

If not treated quickly or prevented entirely complications are:

  • Memory problems
  • Hearing loss
  • Paralysis
  • Kidney Failure
  • Learning disabilities
  • Seizures
  • Death
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The consequences of this disease are quite severe; it’s no wonder children have to get 6 or more vaccines to ensure that they are safe.

If you or your child experiences these symptoms suddenly, get to a doctor immediately to be treated with antibiotics to make a full recovery.[viii]

Why You Should Get the Vaccine

Reduce the instances of Meningitis with vaccines

America is undecided on vaccinations. Some people hate the idea of putting dormant viruses into your body, doubt the benefits, cringe at the high financial cost of vaccinating every kid in the country, and think it’s a ploy to make big pharma money.

The other side of the argument says that diseases and illnesses have decreased since the use of vaccinations, there isn’t a ton of reliable research on adverse side effects of vaccines, and credible research says you can save children’s lives with these vaccines.

While Keely might be one child that wasn’t protected by these vaccines, there are 6 to 9 other kids who are, depending on the type of vaccine. [ix]The truth is, Meningitis is a complicated disease with six strains of the bacteria, among other less prevalent ones. There’s also viral meningitis, fungal meningitis, and chronic meningitis. Trying to protect everyone from each strain, bacteria, or form of meningitis is difficult as there are so many ways to contract the disease, and part of the reason why girls like Keely aren’t fully immune to the disease. Another reason might be that children need regular booster shots to be fully vaccinated, and without them, you can become prone to the bacteria again. [xiv]

However, among teens, the two most common vaccines MCV4 and MPSV4 have decreased meningococcal disease by 80% in C, Y, and W strains since it was widely recommended in America.[x] This means saving a lot of lives when you think about how 10 to 15% of meningococcal disease cases are fatal, and 1 in 5 patients who recover experience long-term disabilities.[xi]

Therefore, while fully protecting everyone is virtually impossible, vaccines do reduce the risk of getting meningitis significantly.

Conclusion

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Don’t use Keely’s story as evidence that vaccines don’t work. Keely is a reminder of why you should vaccinate. To paralyze or even kill our children by not giving them the best odds to avoid meningitis would be a travesty. There is no question that vaccines do not work 100% of the time, but if we stop using them entirely, we give our children no chance.

This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and is for information only. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions about your medical condition and/or current medication. Do not disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking advice or treatment because of something you have read here.

[i] Overview – Mayo Clinic. Mayo Clinic. Available at: http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/meningitis/home/ovc-20169520. Accessed March 30, 2017.

[ii] IBID.

[iii] IBID

[iv] Types of Meningitis. Voicesofmeningitisorg. Available at: http://www.voicesofmeningitis.org/types-of-meningitis.html#r3. Accessed March 30, 2017.

[v] Meningococcal Meningitis – Meningitis Research Foundation. Meningitis or. Available at: http://www.meningitis.org/disease-info/types-causes/meningoccal-disease. Accessed March 30, 2017.

[vi] Overview – Mayo Clinic. Mayo Clinic. Available at: http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/meningitis/home/ovc-20169520. Accessed March 30, 2017.

[vii] Bacterial Meningitis: Causes and How It’s Spread. Healthline. Available at: http://www.healthline.com/health/bacterial-meningitis-causes-and-how-they-re-spread#overview1. Accessed March 30, 2017.

[viii] IBID.

[ix] Meningococcal Vaccination | What You Should Know | CDC. Cdcgov. 2017. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd/mening/public/index.html. Accessed March 30, 2017.

[x][x] IBID

[xi] Meningococcal | Vaccines.gov. Vaccinesgov. Available at: https://www.vaccines.gov/diseases/meningitis/. Accessed March 30, 2017.

[xii] Bacterial Meningitis: Causes and How It’s Spread. Healthline. Available at: http://www.healthline.com/health/bacterial-meningitis-causes-and-how-they-re-spread#overview1. Accessed March 30, 2017.

[xiii] Bacterial Meningitis | How It Spreads | CDC. Cdcgov. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/meningitis/bacterial.html. Accessed March 30, 2017.

[xivUnderstanding How Vaccines Work. 1st ed. Centers For Disease Control and Prevention; 2013:2. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/hcp/conversations/downloads/vacsafe-understand-color-office.pdf. Accessed March 31, 2017.

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