Father of CMU student who died from meningitis: ‘I can’t believe something like this would happen’
His answers short, prefaced with long pauses to keep himself from crying.
Mark Collins, the father of 19-year-old Nick Collins, the Central Michigan University freshman who died Thursday from bacterial meningitis, sits stunned.
“I can’t talk, man,” Collins said, his voice cracking.
Last Thursday, May 3, Mark remembers making the two-hour drive to Mount Pleasant to pick his son up. Nick was done with finals and ready to move out of his second-floor room in Trout Hall. By all accounts, Nick was fine.
Friday, he seemed fine. Saturday, he seemed fine. Sunday, when he went golfing with his dad and brother, he seemed fine. Even Monday morning, as he got ready for work, he was fine.
But when Nick came home Monday afternoon, things quickly broke down.
“He came home around 3:30 p.m. and told my wife he was getting a cold,” Mark Collins said. “He laid down on the couch and began to feel flu symptoms.”
The family figured he just had the chills. But by 6:30 p.m., Nick complained of a headache. Mark said by 8 p.m. the headache severely worsened and he called 911.
Nick was transported to St. Mary Mercy Livonia hospital Monday night, where he was diagnosed with meningococcal meningitis, a serious bacterial infection that lines the brain and spinal cord. CMU was notified Tuesday by the Central Michigan District Health Department and alerted students and faculty via email on Wednesday.
“By the time we got him to the ER, he was in so much pain,” Mark Collins said. “It took six of us to hold him, and he became delusional.”
On Tuesday, Nick was pronounced brain dead. He spent Wednesday and Thursday in the hospital’s Intensive Care Unit before the decision was made to take him off life support. Nick died Thursday afternoon.
Mark Collins said one of Nick’s final words to his mom was, “My head hurts so bad I want to die.”
“We kept praying and hoping … we talked to him for days,” Mark Collins said. “I can’t believe something like this can happen.”
Mark Collins described his son as a great kid with a sense of humor.
“Nicest kid you’ll ever meet,” he said. “Smart, athletic, great brother, great son. There’s nothing negative you can say about it. Great, great kid.”
Nick, a business major, had already signed a lease on an apartment with his 18-year-old brother Zack for his sophomore year at CMU. He graduated in 2011 from Livonia Stevenson High School, where he was captain of the golf team his senior year and played football all four years.
He also leaves behind a second younger brother, Kevin, 15.
“They were all best friends,” Mark Collins said. “They’re crushed.”
CMU issued a statement Friday saying the school continues to work with the Central Michigan District Health System, while Wayne County Health Department officials continue to identify anyone who might have had close contact with Nick.
“Central Michigan University extends its heartfelt sympathy to the Collins family, friends and fellow students for their loss,” the release said.
According to CMU Health Services, meningococcal meningitis is a rare but potentially fatal infection that can cause brain damage, hearing loss, learning disability, limb amputation, kidney failure or death. Between 100 and 125 cases occur on college campuses each year, while five to 15 students die.
While not required, the university recommends that students, especially those living in residence halls, consider receiving a meningococcal meningitis vaccine.
Trout Hall is closed as scheduled for the summer.
Funeral arrangements were being determined Friday.
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