Student dies from meningitis

February 10, 2008 4:00:59 PM PST
A 12-year-old Camden County girl's life was stolen away by meningitis. For Kaela Dejesus, it all began with an ear ache.

"She went to school, went to the school nurse and said, 'I have an ear ache.' And the nurse looked and said, 'Yes you do, I see a lot of wax in your ear, you probably need to get that looked at.' And that was Wednesday," explained Haddon School superintendant Dr. Mark Raivetz.

The 7th grader at Roher Middle School went home sick that day, but she and her parents had no idea how sick she really was. She was stricken with pneumococcal meningitis, a rare form of bacteria that can quickly turn from a mild illness to life-threatening.

Late Thursday Kaela lapsed into a coma and was rushed to Cooper University Hospital. But despite doctors' efforts to save her, she died Friday.

Dr. Raivetz said Sunday, "There are no words that can express how horrible this is for everybody. The advantage we have in the community is it's an incredibly supportive community, one that pulls together."

Raivetz says officials immediately notified the Camden County Health Department and the parents of other children. They wanted to assure everyone who came in contact with the child that they were not in any danger.

"(The) first determination was this was not the contagious form of meningitis which was key to us. Had it been a contagious form of meningitis then we would have handed over the school to the department of health," sayd Dr. Raivetz.

Dejesus, a cheerleader in Haddon Township, was said to be very popular with many friends, not only at Roher Middle School, but across the township.

Kaela's family, said to be devastated by her sudden death, now have to do what no parent should ever have to do - have to make arrangements for their daughter's funeral.