I Lost My Legs to Meningitis, But You Don’t Have To

Since March 2016, there has been an ongoing meningococcal disease outbreak in Southern California among men-who-have-sex-with-men or MSM. There have already been 24 cases and two deaths associated with this outbreak. NMA T.E.A.M. member Dell Miller, who survived meningococcal disease in 2015, shared his story with The Advocate to urge other gay and bisexual men to get vaccinated. Below is an excerpt of an op-ed written by NMA Advocate Dell Miller in 2016. The full piece can be found on The Advocate, here.

Over the past six months, many gay and bisexual men throughout Southern California have heard about “meningococcal disease,” also known as meningitis, for what may be the first time in their lives. They’ve seen billboards urging them to get vaccinated or even heard about some or all of the22 cases that have occurred since March. Sadly, some of those 22 patients may have found out about this disease the same way I did: when they were diagnosed and fighting for their lives in a hospital bed.

I am an HIV-positive gay man and survivor of bacterial meningitis, so I know firsthand how important it is that other gay and bisexual men take every step to protect themselves and their loved ones from this devastating disease, which can be spread through close contact — coughing or kissing — or lengthy contact, especially among people living in the same household.

On January 25, 2015, I was enjoying a warm Southern California day at the beach with my partner, Sam, and our French bulldog, Charlotte. I remember calling my mom to (lightly) boast about how good it felt to be in shorts in the middle of winter while she was home in our native Washington State, keeping a fire going and a snow shovel handy. When we finished our call, I looked at my feet and wiggled my toes in the sand for what I didn’t know would be the last time.

As I sat up, I began to feel ill. At first, I thought it was the flu or maybe even something I had eaten earlier. My partner and I went home so I could get some rest. Even though I could feel myself getting weaker and weaker, it wasn’t until I noticed a dime-size purplish spot on my leg that I began to think this wasn’t ordinary flu.

Sam rushed me to the hospital, and in the waiting room, I watched as more and more purple rash spots appeared on my skin right before my eyes. I showed the receptionist my new breakouts, and I was taken to see the doctors. They immediately hooked me up to multiple IVs and told me I’d have to stay in the hospital for a while. Soon afterward, I was diagnosed with meningococcal disease.

To read more visit: http://www.advocate.com/commentary/2016/8/12/i-lost-my-legs-meningitis-you-dont-have

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