HUNTINGTON BEACH (CBSLA.com) — Public health officials in Orange County issued a warning Friday about a potential outbreak of meningococcal disease after an 18-year-old Huntington Beach girl was diagnosed with the infection.
Kaitlyn Dobrow has been hospitalized at UC Irvine Medical Center since February following surgeries to amputate parts of all four of her limbs, along with suffering severe skin damage.
Dobrow first began complaining of head and body aches on Feb. 12, according to her mother, Kathi, who says Kaitlyn was unable to get out of bed hours later despite taking Advil for her symptoms.
The paramedics were called and transported her to the emergency room, where she was diagnosed with Meningocococcemia and admitted to the ICU.
“For the next week, her condition worsened, and we were so afraid we were going to lose her,” Kathi said in a statement. “Thankfully, she survived.”
Meningocococcemia – which is fatal in approximately 10 percent of all cases – has been linked to meningitis and blood infection and can cause serious complications, including blood clotting and tissue damage, according to U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
At least five deaths in Tijuana have been linked to one of four strains of the disease, which can be prevented by vaccination for children ages 11 and 12, according to CDC.
There have been two cases reported in Orange County this year caused by other strains of meningococcal infection, officials said.
Kaitlyn – who was scheduled for her ninth surgery Friday – has already had six operations in her one-month-long stay in the ICU, and Kathi said doctors are still unsure how long she will be hospitalized once she is released from the burn unit.
Her mom acknowledged that the cost of Kaitlyn’s surgeries continues to mount, and the family may be forced to sell their current home in order to make room for any modifications that need to be made to accommodate Kaitlyn upon her release.
An online fundraising effort to help the family cover Kaitlyn’s medical needs has already raised over $17,000 on its way to a $25,000 goal.
But for Kathi, just witnessing her daughter’s perseverance and strength in the face of such a traumatic illness has been an inspiration.
“Kaitlynn has had an amazingly positive and courageous attitude throughout this illness and is determined to have a happy, fulfilling life, believing that God has an awesome plan for her future,” Kathi said. “She is my hero.”
Click here for a list of symptoms and other information on Meningocococcemia from the CDC.