Toddler loses limbs battling meningitis

June 10, 2011 4:58:40 PM PDT
Gov. Rick Perry has signed a new law requiring every college student to be vaccinated for meningitis. But it's not just college students whose lives are at risk. We have the story of a two-year-old who contracted meningitis and what it took for her to survive.

Sakura Barden was barely two when she didn't wake up one morning.

"Ambulance got there and she had a fever of 107.8," said Helen Barden, Sakura's mother.

At Texas Children's Hospital, her family was told Sakura had meningococcal meningitis and probably would die.

"I got calluses on my knees asking the Good Lord to help her and protect her, and He worked a miracle," said Sakura's grandfather, Dennis Barden.

Sakura did live but she spent six months in the hospital. And when she came home a few weeks ago, she was a changed child.

"She lost all of her fingers. She lost her left arm. She lost part of her intestines," Helen said.

And her skin looks burned. But she's adjusting and loves ride-alongs with her grandfather on his motorcycle.

"This is a tragedy. There's no other word for that situation but a tragedy," said Dr. Mary Healy, who specializes in infectious diseases.

Sakura had classic meningitis symptoms: high fever, headache, stiff neck and red spots. And though she paid a high price for survival, Sakura's family says they are blessed to still have her.

What's frustrating is that there are meningitis vaccines for school children, a booster for high school students and a new law requiring all college students have the vaccine. But there's not a good vaccine recommended for kids Sakura's age.

"However there are more vaccines in development for infants and toddlers," Dr. Healy said.

Until they're available, people around babies should be vaccinated. Helen watches as Sakura plays with her bracelets, knowing she still faces 17 more surgeries.

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