By Dan Bewley, The News On 6
OOLOGAH, OK -- Oologah meningitis survivor Jeremiah Mitchell is home after being at the Shriners Hospitals for Children in Cincinnati since early April.
The 6-year-old contracted bacterial meningitis at Oologah Elementary School in March. Jeremiah had all four limbs amputated, as well as facial reconstruction surgery.
Jeremiah is shown in a photo to the right. Some of the images might be difficult to see, but Jeremiah's family says they have nothing to hide and want the public to understand the depth of this deadly disease.
"It's past time being too shy," said Gidget Mitchell, Jeremiah's grandmother.
The scars of bacterial meningitis clearly are visible and Jeremiah's arms and legs were amputated and his face has been almost completely reconstructed.
But don't let the images fool you.
"Inside he's the same little guy he was. On the outside things are a little different, but he knows how to cope with them. He knows how to learn how to do old things in a new way and he's done a lot of that," said Gidget.
Jeremiah's homecoming came as the Oologah community rallied to raise money to help the families stricken with meningitis.
There are seven victims in all. Jeremiah and four others survived, but two elementary school children lost their lives, Shuache Moua and Andrew Thomas.
Lori Lair is Andrew's aunt.
"Just love him, we still love him," said Lair.
Lair says the family is still trying to cope. It's the memories of Andrew's laugh and the love he had for his family that keeps her going. She still has a picture of Andrew and his sister sitting at her bedside.
"Every morning I look at him and there's tears of sadness and tears of joy because he's in heaven, he's where every one of us wants to be," said Lair.
As a warm embrace joins two families dealing with tragedy, both hopes by telling their stories, lives are saved and parents understand the dangers of meningitis.
Jeremiah's family says he has already changed lives and is proof that with faith, anything's possible.
"I say it's the God's plan already in action. He's inspired lots of people. He's touched hundreds of thousands of lives. He's brought people to prayer that might not have stopped to pray, and so we're very grateful for that," said Gidget.
If you are interested in donating to the fundraiser, you can do so through the Oologah Assembly of God church. You can also make donations for all seven victims by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
A fund has also been set up for the Mitchell family at Lakeside State Bank in Oologah. Call (918) 443-2474 to donate or mail donations to:
c/o Lakeside State Bank
Oologah, OK 74053