The Daily Gamecock

Chapin stands behind student battling meningitis

What started out as a cold for second-year business student Colton Beasley turned into something neither he nor his family and friends could anticipate.

“They say when you hear hooves, expect horses, not zebras,” said Kelly Plemmons, a second-year theater student who first met Beasley in high school. “Well, this was definitely a zebra.”

After going to the doctor three times, Beasley still thought something was wrong. On Feb. 20, he called his girlfriend, who noticed he was starting to pass out in the middle of sentences. She called his mother, who convinced him to go to the hospital by ambulance.

Doctors at the Lexington Medical Center determined Beasley had viral meningitis. The virus was so advanced that doctors placed Beasley into a medically induced coma. But when they tried to wake him two days later, he wouldn’t.

He remained comatose for 20 days, finally waking on March 12.

Beasley remains in intensive care at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, where he was transferred while comatose. He still has a tracheal tube inserted and cannot speak; he currently communicates only through head gestures. While he was recently removed from a ventilator, it is unclear whether he will return to full health.

“There’s no way to tell. We’re choosing to believe that he’ll make a full recovery. We could say he couldn’t, and he would do it anyway, just to spite us,” Plemmons said. “Doctors are amazed at how much progress he’s made so far. A lot of people would still have severe brain damage. He still can’t move his body that much, but he’s still recovering.”

Meningitis presents itself with cold- and flu-like symptoms but can advance to a more serious stage in rare cases. While Beasley had received the meningococcal vaccine, which is required of all USC students, the vaccine does not always protect against the disease.

The virus attacks the tissue surrounding the spinal cord and the brain. Most cases are resolved on their own in seven to 10 days, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but Beasley’s case was uncommon.

Doctors believe that Beasley’s body “went into attack mode on itself while fighting the viral meningitis … producing too many antibodies and creating excessive inflammation” according to a Facebook post by his father, Terry Beasley. The excessive inflammation led to Beasley’s condition, which would have been more serious if he did not seek medical attention when he did.

“If he hadn’t gone to the doctor, he would’ve slipped into a coma on his own,” Plemmons said. “Then, he would have had a 1 percent chance of waking up. The chances of waking up after he stayed in the medically induced coma were better, but still not good.”

Since entering the coma, Beasley has undergone countless procedures. His parents, who both work full-time and have children in middle and elementary schools, travel from Chapin to Charleston every day to visit their son. Medical bills and travel expenses for Beasley’s family keep escalating.

“It’s a crippling amount of bills no matter how well-off you are,” Plemmons said.

After speaking to Beasley’s parents, Plemmons decided to try to help ease the burden.

She and a group of Beasley’s friends have organized a fundraiser to help with Beasley’s medical bills at Texas Roadhouse in Irmo, where 10 percent of food sales between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. tonight will go directly to Beasley’s family. Cash donations will also be accepted at the restaurant.

“He has the whole town [of Chapin] rallying for him,” Plemmons said. “His family is so grateful for the support.”


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