Leslie Maier

2011-05-08T00:00:00Z Leslie Maier Arizona Daily Star
May 08, 2011 12:00 am

On March 1, 2005, Chris Maier, 17, went to school, had his state-championship soccer-team photo taken, ate spaghetti and went to soccer practice.

By noon the next day the popular high school senior was dead from bacterial meningitis - an insidious disease no one knew he had, until it was too late.

His mother, Leslie Maier, is by nature a positive person with a ready smile. She's spent nearly all her career as a kindergarten teacher.

In those hours and days after her only son's death, she felt as though she were living someone else's life.

Chris was an extroverted soccer standout who scored the winning goal for Sabino High School in the 4A state championship in February 2005, less than three weeks before he died. Over rodeo weekend, the brown-haired, brown-eyed teen went snowboarding with some friends. He was making plans to attend the University of Arizona and major in business.

"If you have a healthy child, you don't think they are going to die within 24 hours," says Maier, who is in her 50s. "You are not prepared to lose them that fast."

The dynamic in the family, which also included her husband and daughter, changed instantly. She says it was like learning to sit in a chair with three legs.

When she returned to teaching, Maier became passionate about protecting other kids from meningitis. Within a year, she was on the board of the National Meningitis Association, working locally and nationally to educate parents about a meningitis vaccine that could have prevented her son's death.

She was the driving force behind an Arizona requirement that all 11-year-olds in the state get the meningococcal vaccine before they start sixth grade. The requirement took effect in 2008 and put Arizona at the forefront of requiring adolescents to get meningococcal vaccines.

Invasive meningococcal infection is rare - there were 14 cases in Arizona last year - but when it strikes it tends to be vicious. Eleven percent of those infected die and up to 20 percent of survivors have long-term disabilities such as brain damage, hearing loss and limb amputations.

"I always think good things come out of bad. I have a really strong faith," Maier says. "I feel like I'll see him again. And I know he wouldn't want anyone else to die from this."

- Stephanie Innes

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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