Paralympic Snowboarder Amy Purdy- Meningococcal Meningitis At 19, Lost A Kidney And Both Legs

Amy Purdy’s Health Struggle

Amy Purdy was 19 when she suffered from meningococcal meningitis, leading to septic shock and kidney failure and causing her to have both legs amputated below the knee. She also lost her spleen and kidneys but went through a kidney transplant from her father when she was 21 years old.

Purdy, who uses prosthetic legs, has since settled herself as a snowboarder and had won silver and bronze medals at the Paralympics as well as a motivational speaker and former Dancing With the Stars finalist. But the 39-year-old has disclosed a new medical setback, and she is asking fans to pray.

In a Facebook post shared last February 2019, Purdy confessed that the pressure of her prosthetics has led to “a massive blood clot from my hip to the bottom of my leg,” resulting in cramping so painful it sent her to the hospital.

What is more, the process to fix the clot comprise of a contrast dye which could compromise her kidney, which Purdy named “the biggest gift of my life and health.”

“There’s the risk that to try to save my leg, we are risking my kidney,” she told.

“I have been hit down multiple times in my life but this time by far has been the hardest,” she also shared.

Amy Purdy (

According to Purdy’s Instagram post in February 2019, she carried out with surgery on her leg, which “went well.”

“We are also checking my kidney this morning to make sure it handled everything well,” she wrote.

“They had to use contrast [dye] but promised me it was a small amount so fingers crossed that my kidney powered through like the powerhouse it is. My dad reassured me that before he gave it to me he put it through much worse.”

“As you can imagine, all of this has once again shifted my perspective. Our bodies are so strong yet so delicate at the same time. Being an athlete and having prosthetic legs, I have conditioned myself to power through so much. That is what has led me to where I am at in my life but that’s the paradox because it also led me here. Although I had zero symptoms until a few days before, I realize the pressure I have been putting on this leg for quite some time. Just a reminder to listen to those little whispers and put our health and self-care first”

Purdy spoke to Yahoo Lifestyle in December about becoming a double amputee as a teen.

“I remember being wheeled into the operating room where they were going to amputate my legs,” she said.

“I was so scared and I had no idea what my life was going to be like and I was a snowboarder. This world is made for legs. At least that’s how I felt.”

What Is Meningococcal disease?

Meningococcal disease can refer to any illness caused by the type of bacteria called Neisseria Meningitidis, also known as meningococcus. These illnesses are often severe and can be deadly. They include infections of the lining of the brain and spinal cord (meningitis) and bloodstream infections (bacteremia or septicemia).

These bacteria spread through the exchange of respiratory and throat secretions like spit (e.g., by living in close quarters, kissing). Doctors treat meningococcal disease with antibiotics, but quick medical attention is extremely important. Keeping up to date with recommended vaccines is the best defense against meningococcal disease.

What Are The Risk Factors Of Meningococcal Disease

Certain people are at increased risk for meningococcal disease. Some risk factors include:


Doctors more commonly diagnose meningococcal disease in infants, teens, and young adults. Learn more about vaccine recommendations for age groups at increased risk.

Community setting

Infectious diseases tend to spread wherever large groups of people gather together. Several college campuses have reported outbreaks of serogroup B meningococcal disease during the last several years. Learn more about vaccine recommendations for those at increased risk in community settings.

Certain medical conditions

certain medical conditions and medications put people at increased risk of meningococcal disease. They include not having a spleen, having a complement component deficiency, and being infected with HIV. Learn more about vaccine recommendations for those at increased risk due to certain medical conditions.


Travelers to the meningitis belt in sub-Saharan Africa may be at risk for meningococcal disease. Learn more about vaccine recommendations for travelers.

Causes Of Meningococcal Disease

Bacteria called Neisseria Meningitidis cause meningococcal disease. About 1 in 10 people have these bacteria in the back of their nose and throat with no signs or symptoms of the disease; this is called being ‘a carrier’. But sometimes the bacteria invade the body and cause certain illnesses, which are known as meningococcal disease.

There are five serogroups (types) of Neisseria meningitidis — A, B, C, W, and Y — that cause most disease worldwide. Three of these serogroups (B, C, and Y) cause most of the illness seen in the United States.

Types And Symptoms Of Meningococcal disease

Meningococcal Septicemia 

Doctors call septicemia (a bloodstream infection) caused by Neisseria meningitidis meningococcal septicemia or meningococcemia. When someone has meningococcal septicemia, the bacteria enter the bloodstream and multiply, damaging the walls of the blood vessels. This causes bleeding into the skin and organs.

Symptoms may include:

  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Vomiting
  • Cold hands and feet
  • Cold chills
  • Severe aches or pain in the muscles, joints, chest or abdomen (belly)
  • Rapid breathing
  • Diarrhea
  • In the later stages, a dark purple rash

Meningococcal Meningitis

Doctors call meningitis caused by the bacteria Neisseria meningitides meningococcal meningitis. When someone has meningococcal meningitis, the bacteria infect the protective membranes covering their brain and spinal cord and cause swelling.

The most common symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Stiff neck

There are often additional symptoms, such as

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Photophobia (eyes being more sensitive to light)
  • Altered mental status (confusion)

Newborns and babies may not have or it may be difficult to notice the classic symptoms of fever, headache, and neck stiffness. Instead, babies may be slow or inactive, irritable, vomiting, or feeding poorly. In young children, doctors may also look at the child’s reflexes for signs of meningitis.

Prevention Of Meningococcal Disease

Keeping up to date with recommended immunizations is the best defense against meningococcal disease. Maintaining healthy habits, like getting plenty of rest and not having close contact with people who are sick, also helps


Vaccines help protect against all three serogroups (B, C, and Y) of Neisseria meningitidis bacteria commonly seen in the United States. Like with any vaccine, meningococcal vaccines are not 100% effective. This means there is still a chance you can develop the meningococcal disease after vaccination. People should know the symptoms of meningococcal disease since early recognition and quick medical attention are extremely important.


Close contacts of a person with meningococcal disease should receive antibiotics to prevent them from getting sick. This is known as prophylaxis. Examples of close contacts include:

  • People in the same household or roommates
  • Anyone with direct contact with a patient’s oral secretions (saliva or spit), such as a boyfriend or girlfriend

Doctors or local health departments recommend who should get prophylaxis.

 What Is Re-Infection

If you get meningococcal disease twice, your doctor should check to see if you have an underlying immune deficiency.
Although rare, people can get the meningococcal disease more than once. A previous infection will not offer lifelong protection from future infections. Therefore, CDC recommends meningococcal vaccines for all preteens and teens. In certain situations, children and adults should also get meningococcal vaccines.


Written by Anne W. Hansen

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