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SALT LAKE CITY -- Christmas came early for a Murray family that's been going through some tough times. The community pitched in to help this Vietnam veteran and his family after overcoming a near fatal disease.
If you asked John Clark to predict how 2011 would end for him and his family, he wouldn't have imagined getting keys to a set of new wheels that was full of presents for his two kids Heather and William.
In June, bacterial meningitis nearly killed him. John and his wife wanted to have a picnic so he tried to move a350 pound picnic table. That's when it all happened - he started to feel ill and was rushed to the hospital.
A year ago, John was able to support his family.
"I was driving truck and getting ready to go back to law school. And I just had one more semester to go," Clark said.
But bacterial meningitis can be quite severe and may result in brain damage, hearing loss, or learning disabilities.
For bacterial meningitis, it is also important to know which type of bacteria is causing the meningitis because antibiotics can prevent some types from spreading and infecting other people. Source: Center for Disease Control
But the meningitis caused lasting health complications, making it difficult to hold down a job. After a few months, they nearly lost their apartment.
John and Chrystal are swimming in nearly $300,000 of debt to pay for medicals bills.
I've had some mommy moments where I needed a time out, but what do you do? You laugh or you cry right? But I choose to laugh," Crystal said.
Chrystal has had to rely on the bus to look for a job, or drop off the kids at Head Start. Now, through the SLC Head Start program, the community has pitched in to help the Clarks weather this storm, including Sterling Autobody in Midvale.
"My life started out this year really traumatic. I lost 78 pounds when I got out of the hospital. She was my everything. Now it'll be a lot less hassle," Clark said.
Now, Chrystal says she'll be able to use her new car to support the family while John continues his treatment twice a day, every day.
The Salt Lake Valley Health Department says bacterial meningitis lives in nose and throat and so people can spread it by sharing water bottles or utensils.
But as fatal as the disease can be, health workers say it is preventable with vaccinations. So today, in light of John Clark's story, doctors remind Utahns to vaccinate kids against bacterial meningitis.
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