While we're all focused on COVID-19 as we head back to school this fall, Patti Wukovits is focusing on Meningitis B.
“She loved to entertain and make people laugh. She enjoyed life. When I think of Kim the one word that comes to mind is joy,” said Wukovits. It's still painful for Wukovits to talk about her only daughter.
Kimberly Coffey was a high school senior who was in her last two weeks of school. She'd been accepted to nursing school and was ready to launch her career. She wanted to follow in her mom's footsteps and be a nurse. One day she came home from school with a fever.
“By the next morning she wasn’t fine at all. She said 'mommy everything hurts from my eyelashes to my toes.' This is really, really bad. She couldn’t pull her head off the pillow and was completely lethargic,” Wukovits recounted.
Kimberly told her mom that it felt like her ankles were bleeding. Patti saw purple dots and rushed her daughter to the emergency room.
“One of the doctors pulled me aside and said 'we believe your daughter had bacterial meningitis.' I said 'That’s not possible. I made sure Kim was vaccinated with the meningitis vaccine.'”
She learned that Kim wasn't fully protected.
"At the time, in 2012, when she got sick we didn’t have a Meningitis B vaccine in the United States so I couldn’t protect her with that. She didn’t have the privilege of having a Meningitis B vaccine."
Doctor Paul Offit, Professor of Pediatrics at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia says it's a vaccine that's necessary and reduces your chances of the type of pain, loss and suffering that Patti lives with everyday.
“There’s five different strains that causes these, one vaccine prevents 4 of them: a, c, w, y and then there’s a b category, so 5- A, c, y,w and b. A few of the vaccines just do a c w and y and couple just do b, so 2 vaccines to prevent all 5 strains,” said Dr. Offit.
Wukovits says, "her organs were failing and she was in septic shock and she went into cardiac arrest this is a child who was just in her classroom the day before talking with her friends about prom and how her beautiful dress was on her closet door and excited about graduation and starting nursing school.”
Out of Kimberly's tragedy - came the Kimberly Coffey Foundation and the Meningitis B Action Project.
“I am promoting awareness of her story so that this does not happen to anyone else. It does not have to happen any longer, we have a vaccine and it should not be happening. We shouldn’t lose one more child. But again, if parents don’t know about it we might not know to ask about it,” Wukovits said.
Even in the COVID-19 era, Wukovits is doing webinars, educating everyone about the two separate vaccines, and empowering parents and families to have the conversation before they head back to school this fall.
“I know we’re making a difference I know that. Kimberly’s dream was to be a pediatric nurse and save children’s lives and this is not how she or I planned she would save children’s lives but she still is and through me. I’m her voice.”
A powerful message from a mom on a mission to save lives, just like Kim would have wanted.