We had the great fortune to have her in our lives for almost 18 years. “Only the good die young” – and she was better than the best.
When we think about Kimberly, we think about her warm, kind and compassionate heart, radiant smile, witty sense of humor, fun-loving ways, funny faces and funny voices. And yet through her silliness, she was a voice of reason as she grew into a beautiful young woman. A young woman of many talents, Kim started her many years of dance at the early age of three. Kimberly was also a beautiful singer.
She loved to perform, and acted in plays at theaters across Long Island, New York (NY). While Kimberly had many interests and talents, her greatest joy was the beach. Toes in the sand, sunbathing, and swimming in the ocean - that was her perfect day.
No one loved her more than her brother Christopher, with whom she was very close. Despite their four-year age gap, there was an enormous amount of love between the two of them and they would spend countless hours together giggling and playing together.
Kim’s dream was to become a pediatric nurse, and her compassion, empathy, caring and love for children would have made her perfect for the job. She was thrilled to be accepted into the Nursing Program at Molloy College in Rockville Centre, NY and was to begin the program in the Fall of 2012.
Unfortunately, as a 17-year-old high school senior, her life was cut short by Meningitis B.
Kim's Meningitis Story
As told by her mother, Patti Wukovits
As a high school senior, Kimberly came home from school one afternoon complaining of body aches and a fever of 101. Her pediatrician recommended that she come to the office the following morning if her flu-like symptoms didn’t improve. The next morning, it was clear that this was something much more serious.
She complained that her entire body hurt her from her “eyelashes down to her toes," and she felt like her ankles were "bleeding". As a registered nurse, I recognized the tiny purple dots on her ankle and panicked. Shortly after, she complained of intense pain in her back, where a dark purple rash had spread within a matter of minutes. She was rushed to the Emergency Room.
When the doctor in the Emergency Room told me she suspected Kimberly had bacterial meningitis, it didn’t seem possible because she had been vaccinated. I had made sure that both of my children were up to date on all of their vaccines, including the meningococcal vaccination.
I later learned that the meningococcal vaccine Kimberly had received (serogroup ACWY) did not protect her against meningitis B (serogroup B). I also learned that at the time, in 2012, there wasn’t a meningitis B vaccine available in the U.S. I was under the false impression that Kimberly was fully protected, when in fact, she was not.
Within hours of Kimberly’s first symptoms, her heart and kidneys were failing. The purple rash had spread all over her body, and she was rapidly losing blood flow to her extremities. Two days later, the official diagnosis was confirmed. Kimberly had meningococcemia — the meningococcal bacteria had infected her blood, and she was fighting for her life. After starting dialysis for her failing kidneys, she went into cardiac arrest. She was resuscitated and placed on a ventilator. Kimberly still had brain activity, and we still had hope. As the days stretched on, it was apparent that if Kimberly survived, she would likely be a quadruple amputee.
Not too long after, Kimberly was declared brain dead. I had to make the most difficult decision of my life to remove my beautiful 17-year-old daughter from life support. There is not one hour that goes by that I don't think about her.
Kimberly Coffey was buried three days before her high school graduation in the prom dress she didn’t get to wear. She didn’t have the opportunity to be vaccinated against Meningitis B.