Meningococcal Disease Takes Teen’s Legs

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PORTLAND, Ore. — A Corvallis teenager is recovering in a Portland hospital after both of his legs were amputated earlier this week.

Eighteen-year-old Aaron Ojeda was diagnosed with meningococcal disease earlier this month, a rare yet sometimes fatal disease.

“I collapsed on the floor, and my dad found me,” Ojeda said. “So he called the ambulance and I blacked out.”

The next thing Ojeda remembers is waking up in a hospital.

“My hands were just black,” he said. “Just dead skin. And my legs – it was just so bad and they looked terrible. There were scars and scabs all the way up to my knees.”

Doctors told him he had meningococcal disease. The Benton County Health Department says his case is a bacterial form of meningitis, and that nobody else in the county has been reported with the disease. The department says most people carry the bacteria that causes the disease, but it is rare to contract it.

Doctors told Ojeda that they would need to remove seven of his fingers, and both legs.

“At first I couldn’t really believe it,” he said. “I never thought that I would have to amputate anything from my body.”

Last week, doctors amputated seven of his fingers: some down to the knuckle, others just the fingertips.

“It was really scary,” he said. “I know there are some activities that I won’t be able to do again.”

Every activity will now become more difficult, including one of his favorite hobbies: photography.

“I did want to pursue a career in photography, or just graphic design in general,” he said. “You know – things that involve using your hands.”

On Tuesday, doctors amputated both his legs just below the knee. Despite the tragedy, the teen is staying positive.

“They cut below the knees, which is great because if it was above the knees it would be a lot harder to walk.”

Ojeda is determined to walk once again, with the help of prosthetics.

“I’m just trying to be optimistic for my friends and family,” he said. “Especially my parents.”

He credits his positive attitude to those around him, who are showing him that they care by visiting him or sending him messages of sympathy.

“I want to thank everyone in Corvallis for showing all the support that they have,” he said. “I’m just glad that people are here for me.”

But it is Ojeda’s optimism that keeps him going, anxious to walk once again.

“I’m definitely going to keep on trying and always hope for the best,” he said. “We just have to wait and be patient, and just have hope that something good will come out of it.”

Ojeda is currently at the Legacy Emanuel Medical Center in Portland.

His family has set up a medical fund to help pay for prosthetics and other medical expenses his insurance will not cover. Anyone who would like to help can donate at any Citizens Bank under the “Aaron Ojeda fund.”

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