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Alex's Life

Alexander John Knutter was born April 8th 1989 to Donna and Jeff Knutter.  He has an older brother, Shaun and was a Senior at Tremper High school in Kenosha, WI. 

Alex attended Roosevelt School K through 3rd grade while we lived in Kenosha then Prairie Lane, Lance, and finally Tremper after we moved to Pleasant Prairie, WI. Growing up Alex had developed such an amazing imagination and came up with the most outrageous stories.  He always excelled at the computer / video gaming, played the guitar, chased a golf ball around the course, and could sketch pretty well.  He even designed some tattoos and was planning on having one put on his back on his 18th birthday in memory of his grandfather, Robert Knutter. 

Alex had such a unique personality.  He had the special ability to make anyone laugh at anytime.  His incredibly sharp wit and fast tongue led to unbelievable one-liners; which of course led to most of his troubles at school.  He was always laughing and was the loudest person in the room.  Now our home is so quiet without him,  I really miss his voice, his jokes, and mostly his laughter.  One of his friends said, "Just remember: God took him because he wanted someone fun to hang out with in heaven". 

Alex contracted meningococcal meningitis which took his life when he was just 17 years old.  It was Friday night when Alex came to Donna and said he had a headache.  Just 15 short hours later he passed away with his Mother, Grandmother, and me by his side. He now rests peacefully next to his Grandfather at Sunset Ridge Cemetery in Somers, Wisconsin.  

Jenny McCarthy appeared on Oprah on September 24 2008 to talk about autism and vaccines.  Jenny has a son with autism and is convinced vaccinations played part in him contracting the disease and is currently fighting to change the laws regarding required immunizations.   Donna sent this letter to Oprah expressing the need for requiring a Meningitis vaccination and to date we have not received a reply from her or her show.

On Friday, February 23 2007 around 7:30 p.m. our 17 year old son Alex came to me complaining of a headache.  I gave him some Tylenol and told him to rest for the night.  When I got up around 6:30 Saturday morning he stated he had been vomiting all night.  He felt somewhat feverish so I figured it was the flu.  I told him to get something to drink and go lay down.  When I went to check on him a little while later he wouldn't really talk to me, he just sat in the recliner and covered his eyes with his hair.  When my husband got up, he noticed Alex sitting in the chair and his lips were somewhat blue.  He asked what was going on and Alex wouldn't answer him.  I said Alex wasn't feeling good and had been vomiting all night.  When my husband went to take a shower, Alex moved from the recliner to the floor and just laid there and moaned and said his heart hurt.  I wasn't sure what was going on because Alex could be very dramatic when he wanted to.  Thinking maybe it was heartburn I told him to get up and get a glass of milk and then go lay downstairs and watch TV.  He went into the kitchen and started to pour a glass of milk but instead just turned and headed downstairs.  He got down a few steps and then stumbled to the bottom where he again, laid down on the floor.  I went and put the milk away and turned to head downstairs and talk to him.  When I got to the bottom of the stairs, he was leaning against the wall with a blank glassy stare and had vomited on himself.  I screamed for my husband, grabbed the nearest phone and dialed 911.


I had no idea what was going on and I am ashamed to say I thought maybe he had somehow done this to himself by taking something.  I can't even tell you what happened on the phone, but I remember yelling "Alex, what did you take!!"  I remember trying to relay information to my husband on how to do CPR until help arrived.  I remember it taking way too long for the ambulance to get to our house.  I remember the police asking lots of questions.  I remember letting the dog out because she was going crazy.  I remember praying.


When Alex was stable enough to be transported we were told we would have to stay behind and answer questions like that was going to happen.  When we arrived at the hospital we were immediately brought into the family room.  A hospital chaplain came to sit with us and a nurse came and got my husband to answer some questions.  When he came back to the room, he said they were working on Alex but it didn't look good.  They had suggested we call our family.  How do you call your family what do you say??  We called our oldest son who lived in Madison and told him he needed to come home right away.  I went to see Alex and was not prepared for what I saw in that room.  Of course, how could I be?  Alex was unconscious with tubes and monitors everywhere.  His skin was purple and he had this terrible rash everywhere I looked.  I just went and caressed his hair and whispered to him that he needed to fight this!  That I needed him here with me, that grandma needed him, we all needed and loved him.  I sat in the room for a minute or two and then could not take it and went to be with my husband.  As we sat there waiting the doctor came in to give us an update.  They wanted to transfer him to Children's Hospital in Milwaukee, but they couldn't stabilize him.  Her exact words "I don't think your son is going to make it" and that was that they came and got her and off she went.  We sat with the chaplain just stunned beyond comprehension.  A few minutes later they came in and said his blood pressure was stabilized and they may be able to transfer him after all.  At some point, my mother-in-law showed up and went to see Alex with my husband.  After a few minutes, my husband came and got me and said I needed to come to the room because Alex's blood pressure dropped again.  Our 17 year old son Alexander John Knutter passed away at 10:36 a.m. on Saturday, February 24 2007 from Meningococcal Meningitis.


On Monday, February 26 I learned that there was a vaccine that could have prevented the worst experience of my life.  I talked with the Kenosha County Health Department and questioned why given the swiftness and severity of this disease (it took our son in less then 15 hours) is it not a required immunization?  We were even told that had we brought our son to the hospital earlier, because of the symptoms he displayed, he would have been diagnosed with the flu and sent home with directions to rest and get plenty of fluids.


Because of the contagious nature of Meningitis, we were inundated with media attention.  They wanted to inform parents of what to look for without causing widespread panic.    In one of the articles there was a quote from a physician stating there were more important things parents should be concerned with like unprotected sex, drugs and drinking.  While these are important to discuss with your child, ultimately it is your child's choice that will protect them from these types of things.  Our son had no choice when it came to Meningitis.  Until that day, we felt like we did everything we could to protect our children.  They received all required immunizations.  We discussed the dangers of drugs, alcohol, sex, and driving irresponsibly.  Had we been aware of this deadly disease we would have protected them against it as well.  We are now learning all we can about all forms of Meningitis and what we can do to prevent another family from having to go through what we went through.  We will never experience the joys of graduation, marriage or grandchildren with our son Alex and we will always struggle to understand this loss.


I write to you because I think this is a growing, preventable disease that needs to be addressed.  We need to get our story out along with the stories of others who have lost or have survived and the daily struggles they endure.  There are many people and organizations that fight everyday to educate all on this deadly and debilitating disease.  They do not get the attention they deserve.  Frankie Milley is one such person.  Since losing her only child to Meningitis, it has been her mission to educate the public and support the families that have been devastated by this disease.  I'm not sure where we would be today without Frankie and the support of the 'angel family'.


My idea for you is a show dedicated to Meningitis Awareness.  Please visit the following web sites and learn all you can about Meningitis.  I'm sure representatives from any of these organizations would love the opportunity to discuss a disease they are so passionate about.  At the very least, read the stories of survivors and those lost to meningitis.




Visit Alex's my space: www.myspace.com/alexknutter


Here is a copy of a poem we placed in the Kenosha News on his 18th birthday.

The Family Chain

We little knew that morning, God was going to call your name,

In life we loved you dearly, in death we will do the same.

It broke our hearts to lose you, you did not go alone,

For part of us went with you, the day God called you home.

You left us beautiful memories, your love is still our guide,

and though we can not see you, you are always at our side.

Our Family chain is broken, and nothing seems the same,

but as God calls us one by one, the chain will link again.




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