Amputee, 21, Fights for Law Requiring College Vaccinations

Hundreds of students at UT-Austin were vaccinated this spring for a potentially lethal form of meningitis, thanks to the special case of Jamie Schanbaum, reported.

Schanbaum, a 21-year-old student at UT-Austin, contracted meningococcal septicemia in November 2008, which causes the body to cut off circulation to the extremities to protect vital organs, and had to have both legs amputated below the knees as well as has portions of her hands.

However, she is driven to move forward with her life, and with the use of prosthetic legs, she has learned to drive, ride her bicycle, write with a pen, type and use her cell phone again.

"She was extremely motivated and just looking toward the future, not focusing on what she lost, but what she can still do despite her disability," said Dr. Juan Latorre, a specialist in therapy and prosthetics at St. David’s rehabilitation hospital, who is in charge of Schanbaum’s therapy.

Latorre is also an amputee, losing part of his leg in a train accident. However, like Schanbaum, his loss inspired him to help others.

Schanbaum and her mother Patsy worked to pass the Jamie Schanbaum Act in 2009, requiring freshman attending Texas colleges and living on campus to get the meningitis vaccine. The law went into effect January 1, and approximately 5,000 new students are expected to be vaccinated when they arrive at school in the fall.

"I hope that parents, or anyone, just takes that information," Schanbaum said. "If there's a vaccine out there than can save their life, why should they not get this? If you see my speeches or know my story, there's a lot to know about me. It's an interesting experience, what I've gone through. A life changing one."

Although she doubted herself in the beginning, she doesn’t need as much help anymore and invites others to say hello and asks her questions.

"I guess I'm grateful to have gotten sick because I know that I'm saving lives, whether they know it or not," she said. "I'm glad to have done that."

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