Field Hockey Organizes Meningitis Awareness Game at Columbia

Senior Maddie Earle is organizing a joint meningitis awareness effort during Harvard's final regular season game at Columbia.
Senior Maddie Earle is organizing a joint meningitis awareness effort during Harvard's final regular season game at Columbia.

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. - During Harvard field hockey's final regular season game against Columbia, both programs hope to raise awareness for the neurological disease Meningitis.

Meningitis is the inflammation of the protective membranes covering the brain and spinal cord. A bacterial or viral infection of the fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord causes the swelling, which can have severe short-term and long-term effects, and the possibility of being fatal. On college campuses, particularly students living in dormitories, there is a higher risk of contracting meningitis due to the close living situations. Each year, the disease strikes about 3000 college aged Americans and 15 percent of these cases are fatal.

This campaign was inspired by senior forward Maddie Earle, who on November 10th 2015, was diagnosed with meningitis, and suffered extensive effects that impacted her daily life while at Harvard. Alongside Olivia Ostrover, the pair decided that it would be special to celebrate the four-year anniversary since being diagnosed with meningitis in their final regular season game at Columbia.

These female student-athletes are Co-Presidents of a new student organization, Women of Harvard Athletics, and are both passionate leaders for physical and mental health awareness campaigns on Harvard's campus. Olivia and Maddie are responsible for organizing the purple ribbons and bracelets that both Harvard and Columbia will wear on Friday evening.

"It has been such an honor to be a member of Harvard Field Hockey for the last 4 seasons. I am so blessed with the support I have received during my recovery whilst I have been here. During freshman year, it was like having a concussion all of the time; I needed to sleep 14 hours a day, I was sensitive to bright light, and really struggled with the academic demand of Harvard. However, over the last 3 years, I have fully recovered and owe that to the endless support from Harvard Sports Medicine, my team-mates and friends."

Inspired by Maddie's own battle with meningitis, this campaign is to raise awareness of the signs and symptoms of the disease, so that college students are familiar and can act accordingly. The first symptoms are usually fever, vomiting, headache and feeling unwell. Limb pain, pale skin, and cold hands and feet often appear earlier than the rash, neck stiffness, dislike of bright lights and confusion.

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