OGDEN -- With all her toughness, meningitis still managed to take the life of Shaelyn Skeen.
Skeen, an ATV-riding, hockey-playing 28-year-old, died of a sudden onset of the illness early Sunday morning.
"She was bigger than life," her mother, DeEtt Skeen, of Plain City, said. "She did a little of everything."
Skeen came down with a sinus infection, her mother said, but because she did not have medical insurance, her illness went untreated. After several days, and a visit to a doctor, she went to the hospital by ambulance.
Several tests, including a CT scan and lumbar puncture, showed she had bacterial meningitis that spread to her brain, DeEtt Skeen said. The doctors told her that because the illness was not viral, she and her family did not need to be tested.
Also, because the infection was bacterial, Shaelyn's organs could be given to other people in need. Skeen, a defensive player on the Wasatch Wings recreational women's hockey team, registered as an organ donor on her driver's license.
"They were able to use most of her organs," DeEtt Skeen said. "We want someone else to have the chance to live. To me, she's my hero."
Weber-Morgan Health Department spokeswoman Lori Buttars said the last meningitis-related death in the area occurred in 2007. There are no other reported cases in the area at this time.
"We have periodic cases, but we don't see anything related," Buttars said. "We see this as a single issue."
Spinal meningitis is a communicable disease that is passed through fluids. Anyone who has shared utensils or a drinking straw with an infected person should be tested.
Buttars recommends that all adults, especially young adults, receive the vaccine Menactra.
"It's important that young people get the vaccine," Buttars said. "Before they go to college, this is a good vaccine to get."
What happens is that young people go off to school and get off their parents' health insurance and then contract the illness but think it's the flu, Buttars said.
Symptoms are similar to the flu -- a stiff neck, headaches, upper respiratory problems. Because it has flu-like symptoms, most people neglect to get checked, which can have fatal results. Those who live can suffer severe mental and physical disabilities, including brain damage, kidney disease, hearing loss and limb amputations.
"When it happens," Buttars said, "it's very quick."
The illness is not limited to young adults, she said, but they seem to be the most affected.
"It does take people in the prime of their active life," Buttars said.
Since the beginning of the year, there have been three confirmed cases and three cases still pending investigation in Utah, said Rebecca Ward, a health educator with the Utah Bureau of Epidemiology.
Skeen's funeral service was Thursday. The family opened a memorial account at America First Credit Union to help pay expenses.