Meningitis, which created a panic in 2013 when the disease killed a young gay man in West Hollywood, continues to affect the gay community in Southern California.
One prominent and painful incident has become public with a GoFundMe campaign to help pay the medical expenses of José Murillo, who was hospitalized on Sept. 16 and has had both of his legs and the tips of some fingers amputated as a result of his meningitis infection.
“On September 17, 2016 our life changed, as José Murillo fell victim to bacterial meningitis,” writes Murillo’s husband, José Delgado, on the GoFundMe page. “My loving husband spent two weeks in the ICU intubated in multisystem organ failure at which time I thought I would lose the only person that I have truly loved.”
Murillo currently is in acute rehab learning how to walk on temporary prosthetics, Delgado said in an interview with WEHOville. “I’m just happy he’s alive. There are a couple of points where we almost lost him. I’m just glad he’s alive.”
Delgado said Murillo started feeling sick on Sept. 15. “He was complaining about having a fever, being nauseas, having diarrhea.
“We didn’t think much about it. The next morning we woke up and he was covered in red rashes. I took him to the emergency room, and they said he had meningitis.
“He had full organ failure. He had both of his legs amputated. He has gangrene on seven of his fingertips. They are going to be amputated.”
Murillo has remained in the hospital since Sept. 16, and Delgado expects him to remain hospitalized for several more months.
Murillo and Delgado met almost 16 years ago and they married two years ago. They live just outside of West Hollywood and have been active in the city’s large gay community.
Despite what he has gone through, Murillo projects some optimism about his future. “He’s a pretty amazing individual …,” Delgado said. “He can’t wait to start walking again and getting back to working out.”
But Delgado said that process will be lengthy and expensive. “Anyone that knows José knows that he is the kindest, loving, most generous and fabulous person,” he wrote on the GoFundMe page. “With this long road to recovery at hand, we would like to take this time to ask you and your loved ones for the help raising money for medical bills that are piling up due to his prosthetic that he will now need, to home care and aid that are now needed at home.”
As of publication, the GoFundMe campaign has raised $17,088 of its $50,000 goal. It is being promoted by Impulse Group, an organization of gay men whose goal is to promote awareness of HIV. Donations can be made on the GoFundMe page.
Meningitis is caused by a type of bacteria called Neisseria meningitis, which can be spread through direct contact with saliva or by contact with airborne droplets exchanged by coughing or sneezing. Kissing or sharing food, drinks, or tobacco products can spread the bacteria.
While meningococcal disease is rare, at least 17 cases have been reported in Los Angeles this year. Most people with meningitis recover, but serious medical problems, such as swelling in the brain and spinal cord, loss of a limb, deafness, brain damage, or even death, can occur.
Symptoms are initially flu-like, and include high fever, headache, stiff neck, nausea, confusion, sensitivity to light, and rash such as José Murillo experienced. Vaccination is the best defense against meningitis. More information about meningitis is available at the L.A. County Department of Public Health meningitis information website “Don’t Swap.” Free vaccinations are available at a number of places in Los Angeles, which are listed online.