MADISON, Wis. - Meredith Leigh knows college students tend to see themselves as invincible. Her son, Henry Mackaman, did until he developed meningitis last April and died just a few days later. The University of Wisconsin-Madison student was 21 years old.
Leigh is working with University Health Services to distribute a refrigerator magnet to students with Henry's photo and the symptoms of the disease like high fever, headache, stiff neck, confusion and nausea. She said it's the least she can do to honor the memory of her oldest child, who was nicknamed "Saint Henry" because he was so kind to others.
"He loved living," she said. "There's been a lot of days when I have not wanted to get out of bed and wish I hadn't woken up. And I feel like, 'Oh gosh, wherever Henry is he might be disappointed.' I just have to do something."
Leigh met with UHS Director Sarah Van Orman on Tuesday to drop off the magnets. They discussed also working with University Housing to get the magnets placed on refrigerators in the dormitories on campus.
Henry did not realize the symptoms he was experiencing could be something more serious than the flu. Not a day goes by that his mother doesn't think about how to prevent another family from experiencing her grief.
"What happened to him was a tragedy, and it didn't need to happen this way," she said. "I just want to save one person."