Family urges college students to get meningitis vaccine

JEFFERSON COUNTY (WITI) -- A Jefferson County family is warning others of a lesson they learned the hard way when 20-year-old Eddy Bailey died from bacterial meningitis.

Bailey was a junior studying finance at UW-Madison in 2002. The 6'2" high school valedictorian thought he had the flu when he started feeling ill. A day later Bailey asked his roommates to call an ambulance and died on his way to the hospital, which was just two blocks away.

"Within 12 hours he went from planning his future in finance and business to having his parents pick out his coffin and plan his funeral," said Phil Bailey, Eddy's father.

The Bailey family is spreading a message to make sure everyone knows what they didn't -- that a simple vaccine can protect the at-risk population. Those most likely to contract bacterial meningitis are age 18-24. A booster is needed after five years.

"We were both well educated, both college graduates, read a lot, very involved with our sons' lives, but we didn't know there was a vaccine that could have prevented the disease," said Phil Bailey.

The Bailey's want parents to take the holiday break as an opportunity to make sure their college students get the available vaccination.

"My recommendation is just do it, because it's the best thing you could do to prevent the disease from taking your loved one away," Phil Bailey said.

The Bailey's recently returned from a national convention in New York where they met survivors of meningitis, many who have lost limbs and suffer life-long consequences.