Family Story - Anna Lincoln

Anna LincolnAnna Lincoln, MD, FAAP, is a pediatrician in Buda, Texas, and a mother of three. Her first-born son, Wiley, became dangerously ill with pneumococcal meningitis when he was a baby.


"Wiley was about seven and a half months old and he was a happy, healthy baby. We were visiting my mother. It was around Christmastime, and he was happy, playing, and then, all of a sudden, really overnight, he got a fever. The next morning, he just looked very sick to me. I got very worried, and I took him to my sister's pediatrician. Before I knew it, he was rushed off to the hospital and he had bacterial meningitis.


It was a bacteria called pneumococcal. People get pneumococcal meningitis just from close contact. What's bad about it is the bacteria's everywhere and you can get it very quickly. That's what was so scary about Wiley's illness is that I remember very distinctly the night before, he had his bath and he was crawling on the floor, happy and smiling, and by morning, he was very sick, and by late morning, he was intubated in the intensive care unit and nearly lost his life because the infection was that aggressive.


He was in a lot of danger for several days. He was unable to breathe on his own. He had a breathing machine. He was getting antibiotics and he had to have medicine to keep his heart pumping, and he even had an arrest in the hospital and had to be resuscitated the second or third day he was in the hospital, because his bacteria was hard to treat. The antibiotics weren't able to do a good job very quickly, so it was very scary, but the antibiotics eventually worked and he got better.

He was sick in December of 1999. That's when he was sick in the intensive care unit, and the vaccine for pneumococcal disease came out in February. And I remember in the hospital, my sister's pediatrician came to check on us, and she had already heard about the vaccine. I was in medical school at the time, and didn't know much about the vaccine, but she said this is why, right here, Wiley, this is why we need that vaccine so desperately.


Since the vaccine came out, I have never seen this infection in my private practice. I've seen it two or three times during residency, and a couple times during medical school, and that's very different to a doctor who practiced medicine, you know, 15, 20 years ago, when taking care of kids with meningitis was part of being a doctor, and seeing the devastation that it could lead to.

We have to remind families that, although the diseases may seem low risk, they are not. We have to be diligent about continuing the immunization schedule, because it can easily creep back to how it was before the vaccines, which was a time when children could be smiling one night, like Wiley, and the next morning, be fighting for their life in the intensive care unit.


Today Wiley is great. He's in fourth grade. He loves to read "Harry Potter" and "The Series of Unfortunate Events." He loves those things, and he plays baseball, and I feel very blessed, because he, um, it could – could've been different."


To hear the full interview with Anna Lincoln, visit Sound Advice.

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