PHOENIX (KSAZ) - An ASU alumna is back in the valley for a very important cause. Alicia Stillman suffered a tragic loss when her very own college-aged daughter died suddenly of Meningitis B, even though the 19-year-old was vaccinated twice.
Stillman is now spreading awareness about what was once a disease few people knew or worried about.
"I got a call on a Thursday night, January 31, saying mom I have a headache. I said why do you have a headache, it's flu season; I bet you have the flu," said Alicia Stillman.
In less than 48 hours Stillman's daughter died, the cause was brain swelling from Meningitis.
"There are five strains we see in the United States; A, B, C, W and Y. And the vaccine protects against 4 of them, B is the one that it's not protected against," she said.
Stillman has vaccinated all of her children with the vaccines available in the United States. It turns out there was no vaccine for the strain that took her daughter's life.
"It really wasn't until Emily died that there was an outbreak in Princeton, and then an outbreak at UC Santa Barbara that media noticed and people turned to the FDA and said what are we doing about this," said Stillman.
Stillman took action herself, organizing bus trips to Canada where a vaccine for Meningitis B was available. She started the Emily Stillman Foundation, worked with the FDA directly, and lobbied Congress for a change. In October of 2014, the first series of vaccines in the United States were issued for Meningitis B and approved for ages 10-25.
In January of 2015, a second series was approved. And then Stillman took the fight to the next level, testifying in front of the American Committee of Immunization Practices which finally made the vaccine available to people ages 16-23 regardless of an outbreak or auto immune disorder.
"It's called a category B recommendation, it's not as good as we like, but it makes it available to everybody," said Stillman.
Everybody includes college students who are most at risk; Stillman is making sure her alma mater provides it.
In February, it will be three years since Emily got sick, a lot has changed, but her mom vows there is more to come, and more lives to save.
"I will not be done, my work will not be done until Meningococcal disease is eradicated and we can do it, polio was eradicated, so was small pox," she said.
For more information visit: http://www.foreveremily.org/