It took almost a decade of fighting, but Louisiana children are about to be less likely to suffer from the dangers that come with meningococcal meningitis.
On Thursday afternoon, state lawmakers unanimously passed House Bill No. 342, which pertained to “vaccinations required prior to enrolling in an educational institution.”
In the bill, which is co-authored by State Rep. Jerry “Truck” Gisclair, meningococcal meningitis vaccinations are added as required immunizations for any person entering an educational institution for the first time.
The push to get required vaccinations for meningococcal meningitis was in part led by Galliano woman Jeri Acosta, who lost her son Robert to the disease in 2006.
Through a push called “Rob’s Revolution,” Acosta has been educating people of the dangers that come with the disease. It’s a push that helped spark the new law, which will keep other households from experiencing the pain and heartache that the Acosta family felt when Robert was affected by the disease.
The mother said she experienced the full range of emotions since the bill was passed – from happiness to tears of joy.
The Legislature named the bill the Robert Michael Acosta Bill to commemorate the fight and Rob’s Revolution.
“As I reply, it’s with a heavy heart,” Jeri Acosta said this weekend. “Tears. Joy. Thanks. Tears of why I’m sharing Robert’s story. Joy of making a difference for others. And thanks for those who helped me get there.”
Robert’s story is one that hit close to home for thousands in the South Lafourche community. A 20-year-old South Lafourche High School graduate and then-University of Louisiana-Lafayette student, Acosta was a normal kid his age. He loved his friends, had a zest for life and was a fan of anything creative – music, poetry, thespianism, anything of the sort.
He woke up on Jan. 26, 2006 and had a problem, though no one thought it was anything overly severe. Robert had severe pain in his leg and groin. After a trip to the doctor, he was prescribed with a pulled muscle and sent home with painkillers to relax.
Jeri Acosta said in a previous interview that she spoke to her son after the first diagnosis and he urged her not to worry. The two ended the conversation the same way as always. Robert told his mom that he loved her.
Then, things changed. Robert soon started vomiting and suffering from a severe headache. After going to the emergency room, doctors informed Jeri Acosta that he had bacterial meningitis in his blood.
Less than a day after experiencing his first symptoms, Robert had died.
Robert’s death, and other cases of the disease in that year started to bring awareness to how important prevention is. Jeri Acosta never relented on that fight, which brings us to the present with the Legislature’s law requiring all incoming students to get the vaccination.
Acosta said she the whole situation fills her with pride, because she knows that children in our state are now far less likely to have to suffer in the same way that Rob did.
She said that it warms her soul knowing that Rob’s Revolution is making a difference, because her son wanted to do exactly that when he was here in the flesh. He wanted to always show kindness and love to those around him and make a difference in their lives.
“I was speechless and very emotional when it was motioned to name the bill after Robert,” Jeri Acosta said. “It is such a tribute to a young man who wanted to make a difference in the world, but never had a chance. I now know Robert’s Revolution will live on in others. It’s called prevention.”
In 2006, 20-year-old Robert Acosta lost his life due to Meningococcal Meningitis, less than a day after contracting the disease.
Posted on Fri, June 5, 2015
by Gazette Staff Reports