Metro State Student Loses Hands, Legs To Meningitis

Mark Mather Stresses Importance Of Vaccination

A Metro State student has survived a dangerous form of meningitis but not without losing his hands and lower legs.

Doctors performed the quadruple amputation after 20-year-old Mark Mather contracted the infection, which caused irreversible damage to his limbs. Both of his arms above the elbows, one leg above the knee and one leg just below the knee were removed.

Mark was a healthy college sophomore, a martial arts instructor, in fact, when he became ill in May with a dangerous form of meningitis called Meningococcemia, which can kill more rapidly than almost any other infectious disease.

It started when he felt nausea and a sore throat but it quickly escalated.

"It was just one day I felt a little sick, a tickle in the throat, a cough. Then I was helicoptered to a hospital and feeling real bad," Mark said.

At the hospital he was put into a drug-induced coma. His heart stopped twice.

"It's a serious limb- and life- threatening illness. As many as one in five die from it," said Dr. Ronald Hugate with Presbyterian St. Luke's Medical Center.

So now, Mark is staying optimistic.

"Anger and pity isn't going to get you anywhere. It's just going to waste energy doing it," he said.

His mother and father are at the hospital with him every day.

"It's been really tough. But we've drawn together and given each other strength," said his father, Jeff Mather. "I've never seen Mark go, 'Why me?' I've never seen him look back. But his heart stopped twice the first night, once for five minutes, so we've happy to have most of Mark."

His mother is thrilled that he's alive.

"I couldn't be happier. It's great to have him. It means everything," said Kathy Mather. "He's going to be healthy and independent and have a great life. That gives me all the strength I need."

Now Mark wants to take it a day at a time.

"To quote a really bad movie, Joe Dirt, which I love, 'You gotta keep on keepin' on,'" Mark said. "I'm only 20. It's not like I'm 80 and can say death is coming."

Mark is currently recovering at Spalding Rehabilitation Hospital.

"I've got to work on getting into a wheelchair. Also being able to sit up in my wheelchair for a long period of time," he said.

He said he intends to continue college and continue tellins his story to warn others of the dangers of meningitis and the importance of vaccination.

"There is a risk of getting a vaccination, but when you weigh that against the risk of damage this infection does, I think it's worth considering," said Hugate.

"Probably three or four years ago, (Mark) wouldn't be sitting here," said Dr. Conrad Tirre. "So to avoid putting someone through that, it makes sense to me the risks of getting a meningitis vaccine are minimal if any."

"Mark's case is not unique. Each year, there are college and even high school students infected by this disease. Some die and some lose mulitple limbs, but they and their families must get on with their lives in spite of an event that forever changes them. Mark's desire is to reach out to all of Colorado and the U.S. college campuses to get students inoculated for a nominal cost against this tragic infection," his brother said on a Web site dedicated to Mark's story.

Early symptoms of meningitis mimic the flu, including signs of high fever, vomiting, rash, mental confusion, headache and stiff neck. However, it can be fatal if not treated.

College students are more at risk than many to contract the deadly virus because they live in closed dorm rooms and germs can be spread by kissing, sharing drinking glasses or cigarettes, doctors said. Students' immune systems are also run down because of the college lifestyle.

Approximately 20 to 40 percent of adults are carriers of Neisseria meningitidis, said doctors at Presbyterian/St. Luke's Medical Center.

Additional Information:

  • His family and friends are holding a yard sale at Smoky Hill United Methodist Church on Friday and Saturday, Aug. 11 and Aug. 12. To learn more about that fundraiser and to read Mark's blog, go to MarkMatherFund.com.

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