PLANO (CBSDFW.COM) – Meningitis is just one in a long list of diseases that children and some adults must be vaccinated against in Texas. But many people do not know much about meningitis. A family in Plano shared their story with CBS 11 News, after learning more than they ever wanted to know.

Rachel Futterman was a sophomore in college, living in a dormitory. A fierce athletic competitor all her life, Rachel’s parents said that she was very healthy. “She was a strong woman,” said mother Tammy Futterman. “I was very proud of her tenacity and bravery.”

But in September 2007, the Futterman family received a phone call. Rachel was very sick and having seizures. Paramedics raced her to the hospital. Within two days, Rachel had died. She was the victim of a disease that causes the brain or spinal cord to swell. According to medical experts, about 10 percent of those who get meningococcal meningitis will die, and it can happen in as little as a day after symptoms first start to appear.

Those symptoms include: high fever, severe headache, stiff neck, confusion, vomiting, exhaustion and a rash.

“Their brain is swelling, so the effects can be devastating and happen very, very rapidly,” explained school nurse Kimberly Clark.

Texas is one of the few states to mandate a meningitis vaccine in seventh-grade and for entry into public and private colleges. According to the CDC, meningitis vaccination rates in Texas are up more than 13 percent. “You can’t save them from everything,” explained Tammy, “but this is one thing you can save them from.”

“I just think about how, like, wouldn’t it be helpful if she was around to tell me what to do, and help me out a little bit,” said younger brother James Futterman.

The family now hopes that, by sharing their fond memories of Rachel, other parents will be able to learn more about meningitis, and how to prevent it from creating another tragedy.

Click here to find out more about meningococcal disease prevention on the Voices of Meningitis website.

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