January 30, 1980 to January 5, 2000
“When we are young, wandering the face of the Earth, wondering what our dreams might be worth, learning we are only immortal; for a limited time.”
-Quote used by Dustin’s Med flight nurse Sarah Larson in her presentation on his case
Sometime in 1983, Mom and Dustin had a conversation that went something like this:
“When I get big, I’m going to live with you and Dad forever.”
“Dustin, you will get married what if your wife doesn’t like us?
“Then she’ll have to get out!”
On Christmas Eve, 1999 Dustin was sitting in Dad’s recliner when his older brother Todd ruffled his hair and asked him when he was moving out.
“I’m staying right here – Right Mom!” Dustin replied with a big grin on his face.
It is hard to think of Dustin Raley without having a smile come to your face—this has always been true. He touched so many lives, it is difficult to describe how much he meant to everyone, or even begin to touch on the many, many memories. Those memories are cherished in all his family members and countless friends’ hearts everyday. The following is Mom and Dad’s recollection of that day.
Dustin had gotten the flu just before Christmas. He had a headache and was tired. I (Mom) asked him if he wanted to go see Dr. Sam (Poser) and he said he wasn’t that sick. We didn’t think much of it because the flu was going around and everyone was sick.
On January 5, 2000, Dustin got up about 5:30 am. I was in the bathroom getting ready for work when he came in and said he had to throw up. He sat down on the couch for a couple of minutes before he had to throw up again. Before I left for work, I told Dad to take him in to see Dr. Sam today.
Dad took Dustin’s temperature and it was normal.
Dustin went back down to his room because he was so restless. He came back up a couple of minutes later and looked flushed. Dad took his temperature again and this time it was 104 degrees.
Dad told him that he was taking him in to the emergency room. “Just wait Dad, I’m going to shower first.” Dustin said as he went downstairs to get some clothes. Before he got in the shower, Dad noticed a black and blue mark on his shoulder.
Dustin took a shower and when he got out, Dad could see the black and blue marks were spreading. Dad told him to hurry up and Dustin said,” I have to go get my coat.” He again went downstairs and came up the stairs two at a time—how he always did.
On the way into the ER, he told Dad his feet were cold and felt like they were frostbitten, but sweat was streaming off his face.
When they got there, Dustin told Dad to go park the truck because he could go in by himself. Dustin walked into the ER, and they immediately took him to a room and started him on antibiotics.
They did blood work and started him on oxygen because he was feeling short of breath. Dad saw Dr. Sam in the hallway and asked him to come in by Dustin. Dr. Sam never left Dustin’s side from that point on. Meanwhile, Dad called me at work and said a nurse was coming to get me and that they had called Med flight.
I arrived before Med flight and got to talk to Dustin, who was talking the entire time. He asked Dr. Sam if he was going to ride in Med flight with him. After Med flight arrived, they put Dustin out so the flight would be easier for him.
We picked his sister Kassi up from school and left for UW-Hospital. When we arrived, they took us to a room.
The Med flight nurse later told us that the flight took 12 minutes and Dustin had been hemodynamically stable throughout, but when they got there his systolic blood pressure was 70 (normal is 120) and his heart rate was 140 beats per minute.
Within a few minutes, two doctors came in. They explained that Dustin was very sick. A few minutes later, five doctors came in. They told us that if Dustin lived through the day, they would have to amputate all his limbs. They explained that the bacteria that causes meningitis was in Dustin’s bloodstream. They called the pharmacy and had them bring up medication for us.
I called our other children. Our older son Todd was going to pick Danny up from high school and Referd and Tanya said they would be right there. Renee had attended the Rose Bowl game and was not due back home from California until that night.
The doctors came in and told us we could go in by Dustin. It was too late.
His heart had stopped beating at 12:55. I called the kids again.
Referd had already left from UW-Lacrosse and Tanya from Janesville. I caught Todd and he was going to let Danny know. We had to wait at the hospital for Referd and Tanya. The doctors came in and asked my husband to sign papers for the hospital to take pictures of Dustin and use them as a teaching tool.
In a few short hours, our hearts had been ripped out, but yet continued to beat. Dustin told us when he was a little boy that he would live with us forever and he will live forever in our hearts!
The days that followed were a blur as family and friends gathered to grieve. His friends made CDs with his favorite songs on them. A family friend, Nicole Roberts sang, “Wind Beneath My Wings” and his friend Chris Purvis delivered a moving speech in his honor at his funeral
It is impossible to put into words how much Dustin is missed by his family and friends and how often he is in our thoughts. Time does not make is easier, but life goes on. Thankfully, Dustin knew how much everyone loved him.
On August 14, 2000, Dustin’s case was presented at an Emergency Medicine Seminar where over 265 health care professionals attended. Even after his life on Earth had ended, Dustin continued to help others.
Dustin Raley died January 5, 2000 of meningococcal septicaemia at the age of 19. At the seminar, doctors referred to his case as fuliment meningococcal disease and while the mortality of meningitis as a broad term is 10-12%, in Dustin’s case the number is closer to 80-100%.
The characteristic feature of meningococcal septicaemia is a purpuric rash. The Raley family would like to take this opportunity to thank all the staff at the Columbus Community Hospital, University of Wisconsin Med flight and University of Wisconsin Hospital for doing all they could.
The First Annual Dustin Raley Memorial Kickball Tournament was held September 9-10 at Columbus Firemen’s Park in Columbus, WI to raise money for the Meningitis Foundation of America. The goal was raise $5,000. That goal was not only meet, but exceeded. $6,146.50 was raised this year.