OSU Student Home After Lengthy Meningitis Battle

Sunday, May 28th 2006, 8:41 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- An Oklahoma State University pom squad member has returned to her home after being treated for meningitis in an Oklahoma City hospital for 51 days.

Timber Eaton, 21, was a patient at Integris Baptist Medical Center from March 22 to May 12. In addition to the meningitis, she also suffered from acute blood poisoning.

She contracted the disease after she came home from a spring break trip to Acapulco, Mexico. However, Eaton nor the Oklahoma Health Department have been able to verify where she picked up the infection.

Eaton said she's just happy to be alive.

"I feel each day is more special to me now," she said. "Each day is a new day given to me by God... a second chance so to speak."

Meningitis is the inflammation of the brain and the spinal cord, and is most often caused by a bacterial or viral infection. Symptoms can include fever, vomiting, intense headaches, and neck stiffness.

"It's a truly horrible disease," state epidemiologist Dr. Brett Cauthen said.

While at the hospital, Eaton had six surgeries and the tips of three fingers on her right hand removed. She was also on kidney dialysis for about a month and on a ventilator for eight days.

A former cheerleader and accomplished dancer, Eaton now has numbness in the toes of one foot.

Of 7,000 freshman at OSU, about 1,800 received a vaccination against meningitis and other communicable diseases for the 2005-2006 school year, a university official said.

Eaton wasn't one of them. She said she wasn't aware of the problem or any vaccine recommendations.

She plans to return to OSU in the fall, where she is an agriculture business major. Eaton also hopes to rejoin the pom squad in 2007.