McKenzie Meningitis Foundation interviewed for TV
Ken Hartwig Interview
Pinedale local Ken Hartwig is interviewed by Ami Schmitz, producer for an upcoming documentary on meningitis, to be aired on Good Morning America later this summer. The documentary film crew interviewed members of the Hartwig family, as well as Pinedale High School graduates Linda James and Karly Konicek.
by Dawn Ballou
May 31, 2006
Pinedale locals Ken, Laurie and Garrett Hartwig, as well as Pinedale graduates, Linda James and Karly Konicek, were interviewed by a producer this week as part of a documentary highlighting meningococcal meningitis. The program is scheduled to be aired on Good Morning America later this summer and in 2007 will be circulated amongst US colleges and high schools to educate students on the deadly disease.
The documentary will include interviews with doctors and families across the nation who have been impacted by meningitis. "We've met parent after parent, trying to come to terms with losing the thing most precious to them: a child. And we have been deeply moved by their courage as they struggle to make sense of the ruthlessness with which their child's life was taken," said Producer Ami Schmitz. The film will be narrated by actress Glenn Close, who has family ties to Sublette County.
The Hartwigs created The McKenzie Meningitis Foundation in 2002, after their daughter, 18-year-old McKenzie, suddenly died of meningitis shortly after graduating from Pinedale High School and starting college at the University of South Dakota.
The tragedy of her death is that meningitis is a vaccine-preventable disease, but few parents are aware of the danger of meningitis or that the vaccine is available. The Hartwigs hope to change that.
Meningococcal meningitis is a bacterial infection that causes inflammation of the spinal cord and brain. Five subtypes can rapidly develop into serious illness or death over a period of one or two days or within a matter of hours. Meningitis resembles the flu with nausea, high temperature, headache, neck stiffness, respiratory problems, drowsiness and bleeding under the skin. Many victims suffer permanent disabilities, such as hearing loss, blindness, brain damage, or limb amputation. Numerous cases of meningitis disease have led to death.
The McKenzie Foundation is dedicated to the education and vaccination of Wyoming students. In their first years, they were able to buy sera to vaccinate the graduating seniors of Pinedale and Big Piney High Schools. Later, as more funding became available, they expanded their reach for the entire high school and eighth grades in the Pinedale School District. Their objective is to offer this same immunization program to Big Piney High School and eighth grade next winter.
State funding has recently been approved by the Wyoming State Legislature, Governor Freudenthal and Wyoming Public Health to provide vaccinations for all children not covered under the Federal VFC program, including the Menactra meningitis shot. This means that public health offices across the State of Wyoming will provide MCV4 for persons aged 11-12 and 17-18 college-bound students for a $5 co-pay.
Along with producing a nation-wide documentary, the goals of the McKenzie Foundation have shifted slightly to education and vaccination of 14-year olds, rather than graduating seniors, since the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) now recommend meningitis vaccination for this younger age group, just entering high school.
A premiere of the documentary will be held on Thursday, August 17th, in Pinedale. Time and location to be announced.
The McKenzie Meningitis Foundation www.themckenziefoundation.org