Middlebury parents speak out after daughter dies from complications of meningitis

Published: Feb. 7, 2019 at 5:17 PM EST
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Parents in Elkhart County were shocked to find out a student in the Middlebury Community Schools system contracted a severe case of meningitis over the weekend, and many feared their children could have been exposed to the illness.

However, health officials are assuring the public there was no danger to other students.

Ten-year-old Abbigayle Dipietro, or Abbi, died Wednesday evening of complications stemming from a type of bacterial meningitis.

Her family and health officials in Elkhart County are using this opportunity to educate the public about the dangerous illness.

“She said she had an earache Saturday, so we took her to the ER and they said it was just an ear infection,” said Tasha Dipietro-Anderson, Abbi’s mother. “Late Sunday night, she started vomiting, and the doctor said she would have headaches and vomiting, fevers, with the ear infection so that it wasn’t anything to worry about. Then Monday, about 6 o’clock, she went into a seizure.”

After checking Abbi for the flu and other illnesses, they decided to do a bone tap to check for meningitis.

Something went wrong during the procedure and Abbi fell into a comatose state.

On Tuesday, Abbi lost all brain activity.

“They gave us her time of death as 6:30 p.m. last night,” Dipietro-Anderson said.

Abbi’s parents and the Elkhart County Health Department want the community to know what symptoms to look for.

“The child may complain of a sore throat or earache,” said Dr. Lydia Mertz, the Elkhart County health officer. “Then they have muscle aches, their neck may be stiff, they may have trouble nodding their head or moving around, they may have body aches.”

Despite the tragic loss of their daughter, Abbi’s parents want her to live on through organ donations.

“I wanted something good to come out of it, so we donated her organs,” Dipietro-Anderson said. “I’m hoping that they can find recipients for everything.”

Some types of meningitis can be vaccinated against, though that does not protect against all types of meningitis.

Abbi’s parents are grateful for the community’s support. There is a fundraiser to help the family with medical and funeral costs.

The details of Abbi’s memorial service will be posted on that Facebook page.