Young Vermonter makes remarkable recovery from meningitis

A young Vermonter is home after making a remarkable recovery from what was a life threatening battle with viral meningitis.
Published: Feb. 21, 2022 at 8:58 AM EST|Updated: Feb. 21, 2022 at 10:06 AM EST
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FAIRFAX, Vt. (WCAX) - A young Vermonter is home after making a remarkable recovery from what was a life-threatening battle with viral meningitis.

“I just started to come down with a weird cold, headaches I had never felt before,” said Lucy Stillman of Fairfax.

This was back in the fall of 2021.

Lucy was coaching field hockey and pursuing a master’s at St. Lawrence University. On a trip back home to St. Michael’s College for a scrimmage, she decided she needed help.

“I had my dad pick me up from there, and I knew I needed to go home for the weekend. I needed to do something,” said Lucy.

“She ended up just going over and getting in my truck,” said Scott Stillman, Lucy’s dad.

Scott says the emergency room was the next step.

“When we arrived at the ER, she says, ‘Dad, can you get a wheelchair? I don’t think I can walk,’” said Scott.

Lucy ended up with a viral meningitis diagnosis, which causes inflammation of the brain.

“We’re in the room, and we’re having this discussion about what we are going to do, and that’s when Lucy went into cardiac arrest,” said Scott. “It was the scariest moment of our lives.”

They saved her, and she was helicoptered to Massachusetts General in Boston where she remained in the ICU.

“Basically very bleak, she was told by many doctors, she and her family, that she may never move again,” said Nurse Kristi Emerson at Mass. General’s Neuro Recovery Clinic.

Emerson says pressure from swelling in the brain hit the spinal column, incapacitating her. But much like Lucy, this is where the story takes a turn. Surgery to relieve pressure and treatments began to take hold.

“The doctors have used the term remarkable, it’s a remarkable recovery because it is,” said Emerson.

“How’d this happen, how long have I been there that was the most confusing part for me,” said Lucy.

Rehabilitation both through Mass. General and Spaulding Rehab consisted of motor recovery and autonomic recovery like blood pressure and breathing.

But Lucy is a fighter.

“I knew I was mentally strong just from being an athlete and overcoming things in life, but you don’t really know what you are capable of until you have to do it,” said Lucy.

Family, friends and teammates rallied behind her from back home in Vermont. Then, months later, it was time to come home.

“Just coming home was so refreshing I think, so comfortable,” said Lucy.

“To see her now, I couldn’t be happier. It puts your whole life in perspective. It really does,” said Scott.

Lucy says that love and support were the biggest driving forces pushing her. She says lessons she learned as an athlete were a big part of her success, wanting to outdo herself and those around her, taking that extra step.

Lucy says there were fundraisers, alumni games in her honor, T-shirts, as well as teammates and coaches reaching out and visiting.

“Getting mail every day in the hospital. I mean mail is so underrated now, so that was really a big push for me to see how many people were rallying behind me and lots of people I hadn’t even spoken to in a long time. I think that was kind of interesting to me to see how many people were, I guess, touched by it or compelled to reach out. I think that was big, not only for me, but my family too,” said Lucy.

Lucy credits her family for never leaving her side and her sister coming all the way from Oregon to be with her through this journey.

Lucy says she just wants to share her story and that everything right now is one step at a time.

The GoFundme for the family has raised over $60,000 to date.

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