Meningitis survivor urges FDA to OK vaccine

Topeka Capital-Journal reporter Andy Marso with fellow meningitis survivor Maggi Pivovar, at a fundraiser walk earlier this year. Marso just released a book about his fight against the deadly infection.

Courtesy of Andy Marso

Topeka Capital-Journal reporter Andy Marso with fellow meningitis survivor Maggi Pivovar, at a fundraiser walk earlier this year. Marso just released a book about his fight against the deadly infection.

Andy Marso’s new book about surviving meningitis, ‘Worth the Pain.’

Andy Marso’s new book about surviving meningitis, ‘Worth the Pain.’

Andy Marso was a typical college senior until one morning when he couldn’t get out of bed. With his body covered in a strange purple rash — really bruises from blood leaking out of pierced vessels — he was listed in critical condition at a nearby hospital and then airlifted to a medical center in Kansas City. That’s where he, then 22, spent the next four months of his life, including three weeks in a medically induced coma.

When he woke, his limbs were black.

“When you see your arms and legs are more or less rotting while still attached to your body — nothing can describe how disturbing that is,” the now-32-year-old reporter told the Daily News.

He lost all his fingers, except for his right thumb, and parts of both feet.

Andy Marso, a Kansas reporter who contracted meningitis while in college, with his family in 2004, while undergoing outpatient recovery.

Courtesy of Andy Marso

Andy Marso, a Kansas reporter who contracted meningitis while in college, with his family in 2004, while undergoing outpatient recovery.

RELATED: PRINCETON UNIVERSITY MENINGITIS OUTBREAK: SEVEN CASES FOUND

Now Marso’s fighting for the FDA to okay a vaccine for the type of meningitis he had, serogroup B. It’s been approved in Australia and Europe but not in the U.S., even though it was sent this week to students at Princeton University after a scary outbreak of the deadly bacterial infection.

It’s the first time anyone in the U.S. has been vaccinated for meningitis B.

“It’s frustrating for those of us who have waited for a meningitis vaccine,” said Marso, who works for the Topeka Capital-Journal. “Clearly, the FDA believes it’s safe and effective, or they wouldn’t be administering it at Princeton. But why just Princeton?”

Andy Marso (right) with the burn unit staff of the University of Kansas hospital in August 2004.

Courtesy of Andy Marso

Andy Marso (right) with the burn unit staff of the University of Kansas hospital in August 2004.

Across the country, another rare outbreak of meningitis B is happening at the University of California at Santa Barbara, where at least four students have been infected. Parents there are furiously demanding access to the new drug, which is called Bexsero.

RELATED: PRINCETON UNIV. WILL OFFER STUDENTS DRUG NOT YET APPROVED IN U.S. TO TRY AND STOP MENINGITIS SPREAD

Late Thursday, California health officials announced they’re seeking permission to administer the unapproved vaccine, but help can’t come fast enough.

One student has already suffered serious complications. Aaron Loy, who played lacrosse for the school, had his feet amputated after contracting the infection last month.

This photo shows Andy Marso a week after he was hospitalized in 2004. His limbs had already started to decay.

Courtesy of Andy Marso

This photo shows Andy Marso a week after he was hospitalized in 2004. His limbs had already started to decay.

Bacterial meningitis kills about 500 people every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. College students who live in close quarters are at increased risk.

Nearly ten years after Marso left the hospital, he’s written a book about his experience, “Worth the Pain: How Meningitis Nearly Killed Me — Then Changed My Life for the Better.”

RELATED: FOUR SICKENED WITH MENINGITIS AT UC SANTA BARBARA

Marso, who covers state government for the Topeka newspaper, is certain he’s a better person after surviving the deadly infection.

“Before all this happened, I was pretty spoiled,” he said. “I didn’t like to work very hard; I just expected things to be handed to me. Going through all this taught me, sometimes in life you have to go through really difficult things.”

It’s also made him a better reporter.

“I’m not intimidated anymore by politicians or people of authority — because none of them have been through this. When I think about being in the burn unit, when people were slicing off dead tissue, I’m like, ‘What’s the worst these people can do to me?’ That’s part of what made it ‘worth the pain’ — the confidence I gained.”

rmurray@nydailynews.com


Health – NY Daily News

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