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DISEASE OUTBREAK Hospital releases patient



Published: Thu, June 14, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



If anything had gone differently, Christin Van Camp would not be here today, doctor says.

By WILLIAM ALCORN

VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER

AKRON -- Christin Van Camp, near death two weeks ago with meningococcal disease, will walk across the stage Tuesday in Marlington High School to get her diploma with a new appreciation for life.

What she really wants is to get back to doing all the things she was able to do before being rushed to Children's Hospital Medical Center of Akron on June 2 with the life-threatening bacterial infection.

"I just want to drive my car," a red Pontiac Grand Am, she said, drawing a laugh at a hospital press conference before her release Wednesday.

Full recovery expected: Van Camp, 18, flanked by her mother, Julianne Franks, and her doctor, Blaise Congeni, is expected to make a full recovery within another week.

Dr. Congeni, director of infectious diseases at the hospital, said Van Camp still has some fluid around her lungs and heart but believes she will "walk across that stage and drive her car" and very soon not be restricted from any of her normal activities.

At this point, she tires easily and her legs hurt when she walks. The doctor said a CAT scan of her head and blood tests show everything was normal.

Not so two weeks ago.

Finding out: The Marlington senior had gone to another hospital May 31 complaining of flulike symptoms but was sent home. When she awoke the next morning, her mother saw a rash on her legs. She was flown to Akron by helicopter.

"I knew I was sick and went to the hospital, but they said I didn't have it, but Saturday, I knew I had it," she said.

"I had a deep-down feeling we were dealing with meningitis. I was very afraid. I knew death was a possibility," Franks said.

"If anything had gone differently that Saturday," including the immediate response of her family and medical personnel, "I believe Christin would not be here," Dr. Congeni said.

By then, two students from West Branch High School in Beloit, Jonathan Stauffer, 15, and Kelly Coblentz, 15, had died from meningitis.

Meningococcal bacteria can cause meningitis, an infection of the brain and spinal cord, or a related blood disorder. Symptoms include fever, rash, stiff neck, achiness and nausea or vomiting. The disease is spread by direct contact with an infected person's saliva or nasal secretions.

When Van Camp was diagnosed, Marlington's June 3 graduation was postponed.

Marlington is on U.S. Route 62 between Alliance and Louisville, about 15 miles from West Branch. The students interact.

Difficult to pinpoint: While Van Camp knew Jonathan, Dr. Congeni does not believe she had contact with either of the victims and cannot pinpoint why or how she got the infection.

He said she most likely got the disease from someone in the 5 percent to 10 percent of the population who carry the bacteria, but don't become ill.

Van Camp, overcome with emotion twice during the press conference, said she looks at life differently. "I feel lucky and blessed. I know I could die any day, and I'm going to go to church every Sunday," she said smiling.

Van Camp thanked everybody who called, visited and sent cards. "I got a whole bunch of them," she said.

She said she had planned to join the Army and become a nurse, but she's not sure what she'll do with her life.

One thing her bout with meningitis didn't do: It hasn't dampened her desire to help others. In fact, she said, "it kind of pushes me more."




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