McKenzie Meningitis Volleyball Tournament April 10
by Pinedale Online!
January 22, 2010
The annual McKenzie Meningitis Volleyball Tournament will be held on Saturday, April 10th at the Wrangler Gym in Pinedale. The event is limited to 12 teams, high school age or older. All proceeds go to benefit the McKenzie Meningitis Foundation. Registration is $120 per team. For more information and to register call either Elisha Haley at 307-231-2230 or Paige Harrell at 307-231-2526. www.TheMcKenzieFoundation.org
McKenzie Hartwig attended high school in Pinedale and graduated in 2001. She was a popular and athletic 18-year old, who was named Wyoming All State in Volleyball, Basketball and Track in 2001. She played the flute and piccolo; could speak two languages, loved to travel, and was an honor student. She was a freshman at the University of South Dakota on a volleyball scholarship with business and foreign language classes. In August, 2001, just starting college, she attended a volleyball tournament in North Dakota with her college teammates. She suddenly became ill and died that same evening. She died of a not-well known disease: meningococcal meningitis.
A disease which is vaccine-preventable.
Serious meningococcal meningitis is a bacterial infection that causes inflammation of the spinal cord and brain. Five subtypes can rapidly develop into serious illness or death over a period of one or two days or within a matter of hours. Meningitis resembles the flu with nausea, high temperature, headache, neck stiffness, respiratory problems, drowsiness and bleeding under the skin. Many victims suffer permanent disabilities, such as hearing loss, blindness, brain damage, or limb amputation.
Meningococcal meningitis strikes nearly 3,000 Americans each year. Numerous cases of meningitis disease have led to death.
Data from the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention indicates that military personnel and college freshmen are at a six-fold increased risk of contracting the disease. This is due to crowded, communal living quarters, lifestyle, and irregular sleep patterns.
But many college-bound students and their families, like the Hartwig family, often do not even know of the risk.
In most cases it is preventable.
There are two vaccines available in the U.S. Meningococcal polysaccharide vaccine (MPSV4 or Menomune) has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and available since 1981.
Meningococcal conjugate vaccine (MCV4 or MenactraT) was licensed in 2005. Both vaccines can prevent four types of meningococcal diseases. Menactra is recommended by the CDC, because it lasts for 10 years. If it is not available, the CDC recommends Menomune, which lasts approximately three years.
"That day, when we hugged and kissed her good-bye, I never, ever thought it would be the last time we would see her alive," says McKenzie's Mom, Laurie Hartwig. "There are always those nagging little thoughts in the back of every parent's mind: 'Wear your seatbelt, don't drink and drive, be careful of drugs.' We had always talked about those kinds of dangers to both of our kids."
But the one danger the Hartwigs never even considered was meningococcal meningitis.
The McKenzie Meningitis Foundation is an organization founded in Sublette County in 2002 in honor of McKenzie. The foundation works to promote awareness of the dangers of meningococcal meningitis and to help high school seniors be vaccinated against the disease.
"We wanted to do something," says Ken Hartwig, McKenzie’s father. "We wanted to turn McKenzie's tragic death into something positive and meaningful, and we feel this is a major step forward.
In the spring of 2003, the foundation provided the vaccine to all graduating seniors in Sublette County, Wyoming, and continued to do so until 2006. At that time, at the urging of the foundation, the State of Wyoming agreed to include the meningitis vaccination in its Wyoming Immunization Program. The foundation now provides financial assistance for those who cannot afford the co-pay. In addition, the foundation is actively working to educate people about meningitis, and the need to be vaccinated against it, in Wyoming and other states. The foundation also helped the National Meningitis Foundation produce an award winning educational video. "Getting It: A Disease... A Vaccine" along with educational packets for school health classes.
The annual McKenzie Meningitis Volleyball Tournament is a fun event which helps celebrate the memory of McKenzie by doing something she so loved to do. All proceeds from the tournament go the McKenzie Meningitis Foundation. The event typically raises between $2500 to $3000 for the foundation each year.
Thank you to the McKenzie Meningitis Foundation for information used in this story.