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Surviving Meningitis: Carl Buher’s Story

A young survivor of meningitis is now active in a campaign to raise awareness of the meningitis vaccine.

Who’s at Risk for Meningitis continued...

Lori Buher also offered testimony at a meeting of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, which in late October 2010 recommended to the CDC that a booster dose of meningococcal vaccine be given at age 16, five years after the dose at about age 11.

Every year at the high school freshman orientation in her Washington hometown, Lori talks about the need for vaccination and shares Carl's story. She stops by the sixth grade class to talk about it, as well. 

People have to understand the risk of getting the disease before they decide to get vaccinated, says Carl.

"People just don't think it's going to happen to them."

Road to Recovery

Carl says that during his five-month hospital stay, "I would wake up every morning, and say, 'Oh darn, why am I still here?'" But after a while, “I was tired of it, tired of being like that."

"I felt like I had to persevere," he tells WebMD. "I had an image in my mind of what I was and what I wanted to be."

Carl’s physical therapy continued through most of high school. "It was a long haul, and everything took longer than I thought. The hardest part was learning how to walk."

With foot prostheses, he says, "you have to learn a whole new pattern."

He also credits family support from his mom and dad and his two siblings, who are four and five years older. "The biggest influence was definitely my mom," he says. "She was there every single day."

Today, the 22-year-old is on track to get his bachelor's degree in civil engineering from Gonzaga University in Spokane, Wash., in May 2011, and he plans to start a career designing roads and bridges.

''My dad's a contractor, and I've always been around buildings," he says. His love of math and science, along with excellent grades, helped, too. He was valedictorian of his class, graduating with a 4.0.

He also had to adapt to the three fingers lost to amputation. "I had to learn to type and write differently," he says. He had to learn to eat differently. But by far, he says, learning to walk with the prostheses was the biggest challenge. Right now, he's not playing sports as he used to.

The experience of having meningitis, he says, was a turning point for him. "I realize what's important in life. It's important to be true to who you are. Stick to your morals. That's all anyone can ask."

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Reviewed on November 24, 2010

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