I want to tell you about our son, Cliff. He was a wonderful person. Never met a stranger. Always made a good impression on everyone he met. he was good to everybody, young, and old. He told me once, “I’m nice to everybody young, old, rich or poor – and he was. I don’t know of anyone that didn’t like him. Martial Arts was Cliff’s life. He loved to compete. He was always practicing to better himself. He was teaching Karate to the younger class at his Uncle’s school. Cliff was a 2nd degree Black Belt. He had won so many first place trophy’s in different tournaments. He brought home gold medals to Floyd County in the state games; He took 8th place at the Battle of Atlanta. Cliff loved to roller-blade, swim, play basketball, and ride his 4-wheeler with his Dad, cousin, and best friend, Jeremy. Sunday’s were always family day for us. We all went 4-wheeling. Cliff also enjoyed driving our jeep. The Monday before the nightmare Cliff’s Dad let him drive down to the store by himself. He was so proud. He always told his friends how cool his Dad is. You see, his Dad would let him do anything. I on the other hand was afraid he would get hurt. Boy am I glad he got to do all that he did.
Now for our nightmare that seemed to never end. On August 4, 1999 my son woke me up at 3:30am in the morning vomiting, and running a temperature. My daughter had been sick 2 weeks before. I thought it was the same. I gave him Tylenol and sat with him until he went back to sleep. He woke me up again and I helped him to the bathroom and cleaned up were he had vomited again. I sat with him again until he went back to sleep.
At 6:00am I got up to get ready for work and Cliff was in the bathroom he had vomited again. I ask if he was feeling better. He said yeah. At 6:30 he walked into the living room and asked me if his Dad was in the shower. I went to check and came back and told him no. He said, “I’m going to take a bath. I think it will make me feel better.” I gave him more Tylenol and he went to take a bath.
At 7:00am I went to the bathroom door an asked if he was okay. He said yeah. I asked if he wanted to go to work with us and he said, “No, Mom I just want to lay around today.” I asked again if he was okay. He said yes, and that the bath was making him feel better. The last time I heard my son speak. We went to work and called at 9:30am. He was okay, and watching TV. At 11:00 we called and checked on him. Our daughter said he was okay, but didn’t feel like talking on the phone. I had called my Mom to go to the store and get him some Gatorade.
My daughter had to leave at 11:30 for cheerleading practice. She said Cliff asked her to get him some Kool-Aid before she left and she did. A little after 1:00pm my sister got back from the store and brought Cliff some Gatorade. She found him laying face down in the floor by his bed. She called the ambulance and she called us at work. It’s a 45 minute drive to our home from work, but we made it in 20 minutes. We drove on to the hospital and got there before Cliff. I just knew in my heart that he wouldn’t be coming home with us.
When I saw him he had a blank stare and couldn’t speak. They took him on in the hospital and worked with him. The doctor’s acted like they didn’t know what was wrong. They told us they were going to airlift him to U.K. Children’s Hospital. We got to U.K. Children’s Hospital and they were working on him. 13 hours after the first symptoms appeared our son died of Meningococcal meningitis. He was only 14 years old. He was our world. I feel I have let my son down. Our family knew nothing of this disease least of all that there is a vaccine!
We love and miss you Cliff. You are always in our hearts. We will see you again. We don’t know about other families, but I blame the officials of each state. We should have had the choice of getting our kids the vaccine. We were told at the time this happened that there was no vaccine. The hospital and health department told us this. We found out 2 weeks later that there was a vaccine. I think each state should make it mandatory that at 2 years of age each child should get the vaccine. After 3 years get another and so on.