Friend's phone call averts meningococcal tragedy

DALLAS -- On Sunday morning, April 23, Ashley Peterson, 17, started feeling sick. She was achy and had a cough. Her mother sent her to bed, thinking she was coming down with the flu.

"By that evening she was begging me to take her to the hospital, and she's a tough girl. She plays basketball and volleyball, but she was in so much pain that tears were streaming down her face," Debbie Peterson recalled.

She drove her daughter to West Valley Hospital. Ashley was tested for mononucleosis, and the result was negative. They sent Ashley home with a prescription for antibiotics just in case.

"By the next day she couldn't open her jaw, she couldn't talk," her mother said. "Then a close family friend called and told us to take Ashley to the hospital, because he had tested positive for meningococcal disease and he knew Ashley was sick.

Debbie Peterson and her husband, Chris, took Ashley back to West Valley Hospital and told them that Ashley may have been exposed to the meningococcal bacterium.

"They started treating her immediately, but told us that her blood test would come back negative for the bacteria because she had already been treated with antibiotics."

The doctors at West Valley transferred Ashley to Salem Hospital, where she stayed for three days while the rest of her family was treated with shots or pills.

Meningococcal disease is an acute bacterial infection that can cause death within hours if not recognized and treated in time. Luckily for Ashley, her family's friend had been diagnosed, and that diagnosis spurred proper treatment for her.

Ashley is expected to make a full recovery, as is the family friend who called and warned her parents. Ashley returned to school at Dallas High on Monday.

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