Source: Twitter/TheSun
Source: Twitter/TheSun

Heartbroken Dad Sends Warning after His Teen Daughter Died of Meningitis They Mistook for Flu

Odette Odendaal
May 27, 2019
09:53 P.M.

Laurie and Greg Stelzer continue to raise awareness about Meningitis B, the disease that took their daughter Sara’s life within two days after they thought she merely had the flu.


At 18 years old and a freshman at San Diego State University, Sara called her parents one Sunday night in the fall of 2014 and complained of a headache.

When her symptoms seemed flu-like by the Monday morning, her parents told her to get some Theraflu and to get some rest.

“We thought it was the flu — we told her to rest and go to the student health center. She was more concerned with missing classes than how bad she felt,” Greg told Fox News.


By Monday, she developed nausea and exhaustion on top of her headache, but also a blotchy, purple rash - a sign of meningitis B.

On Tuesday morning, a friend of Sara’s informed her parents via text that she got taken to the emergency room.

Even though Greg And Laurie arrived at the hospital by the afternoon, doctors had already put Sara in an induced coma. According to the neurosurgeon, she had no brain activity and believed that she had contracted bacterial meningitis.


“We just didn’t know anything about bacterial meningitis,” Laurie said. “We didn’t know to even ask about those symptoms.”

When the diagnosis of bacterial meningitis got confirmed, doctors immediately began a course of antibiotics, but it was too late. Sara suffered a stroke because the infection had spread to her spinal cord and brain.

“All of a sudden, within two days, we lost her,” Greg told Yahoo Lifestyle. The death of their youngest daughter so suddenly and without warning hit the Stelzer’s hard as Laurie added, “It was a very hard hole to come out of.”


But when they finally came out of that “hole,” Greg and Laurie realized after doing some research that vaccinations only included the “A, C, W and Y strain of meningitis, and not B.

Because the vaccine against meningitis B only came out after Sara died in 2014, it isn’t mandated yet, leaving many teens and young adults at risk of contracting the dangerous disease.

For this reason, they decided to raise awareness about the disease to prevent the same thing happening to someone else’s child.


According to the CDC, teens and young adults ranging in ages from 16 to 23 are most at risk for contracting meningitis B, and teens should ideally get their vaccine against the disease at their 16-year doctor's visit.

There is also a second dose of the vaccine. Because the timing of the second dose depends on the brand of vaccine initially used, instructions given by the healthcare provider should be followed in when that second dose should be administered, according to the NMA (National Meningitis Association).


Early symptoms of meningitis can include a fever, a sensitivity to light, headache, vomiting, muscle pain, a stiff neck, drowsiness, confusion, irritability, and fever with cold hands and feet.

While the symptoms can appear in order, some may not appear at all. Because someone with meningitis can get worse quickly, it is advisable to seek medical help immediately when someone is ill and getting worse, no matter what cause may be suspected.

In a related story, a Middlebury family lost their daughter to meningitis early in 2019, much the same way as Greg and Laurie lost Sara.

Within two days, ten-year-old Abbigayle sadly passed away. Her parents also decided to warn others against the dangers of the disease and made a unique contribution to science in aid of research while they mourn the loss of their daughter.

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