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Who’s at Risk for Meningitis continued...

Today the entire Buher family, including Carl's two older siblings, takes every opportunity to raise awareness of the vaccine and the disease, whenever it comes up in conversation with friends and acquaintances, Carl says.

Carl and his mother, however, are most involved in the effort. Lori Buher is a member of a group called Moms on Meningitis, affiliated with the National Meningitis Association. The coalition includes mothers whose lives have been changed by meningitis, and they push for education and awareness of the vaccine. Carl has created a video for the association. During Carl's treatment, Curt Buher became an Internet research expert, turning to the web to research facts about the disease, treatment options, and recovery.

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."