NAU student in a coma with rare form of meningitis, father shares a warning

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An NAU student is in a coma with a rare type of meningitis. (Source: Shawn Dennstedt) An NAU student is in a coma with a rare type of meningitis. (Source: Shawn Dennstedt)
Lianne Dennstedt, had been feeling under the weather the week she came back to campus on Aug. 26. (Source: Shawn Dennstedt) Lianne Dennstedt, had been feeling under the weather the week she came back to campus on Aug. 26. (Source: Shawn Dennstedt)
The infection had spread to her lungs, causing pneumonia, and into her spinal fluid causing meningitis. (Source: Shawn Dennstedt) The infection had spread to her lungs, causing pneumonia, and into her spinal fluid causing meningitis. (Source: Shawn Dennstedt)
FLAGSTAFF, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -

A Northern Arizona University student is in the ICU with a rare type of meningitis that started with what she thought was a common cold and a sore throat.

"She’s very outgoing, she loves being outdoors, she likes to travel," said Shawn Dennstedt.

He says his daughter, environmental science major Lianne Dennstedt, had been feeling under the weather the week she came back to campus on Aug. 26.

The 19-year-old was about to start her sophomore year at NAU. Her father says she wasn't going to let a cold keep her from making it to her first class.

But it only got worse from there.

"She was at school by herself for several days. Her roommates had gone out of town, so I think she just curled up into a ball and just said, 'This is going to pass' and by the time that she realized that it was significant, it was kind of too late,' said Dennstedt.

The infection had spread to her lungs, causing pneumonia, and into her spinal fluid causing meningitis.

 "Fusobacterium. So the meningitis didn't come from an outside source. It was basically produced from her own body," said Dennstedt.

The once-healthy, fun-loving girl is now in a coma at Flagstaff Medical Center.

"She’s 19 years old, but she's still our baby. And to walk into a hospital room and see her attached to all the ventilators and all the machines, it's a terrifying experience," said her father.

Her parents, in from California, are now taking shifts watching over her at the hospital.

"Pay attention to your own body,” said Dennstedt. “A lot of people they don't want to go to the doctor. They think this will pass."

They say they don’t believe she could have given the bacteria to anyone else, but her father says this is a good reminder for everyone to get a meningitis booster shot if they're due.

"I was in the Marine Corps for six years. I was a deputy sheriff for 24 years. I’ve seen a lot of interesting things, a lot of scary stuff, been in a lot of scary situations and this is hands down, hands down the worst. Nobody should have to see their kid like this," he said.

They expect Lianne's recovery to be a long one. They've set up an online fundraiser to help pay for bills not covered by insurance and travel costs to and from their home in California.

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Lauren ReimerLauren Reimer joined the 3TV/CBS 5 family in June 2016. She is originally from Racine, WI but is no stranger to our heat.

Click to learn more about Lauren.

Lauren Reimer

She previously worked for KVOA in Tucson, covering topics that matter to Arizonans including the monsoon, wildfires and border issues. During the child migrant crisis of 2014, Reimer was one of only a handful of journalists given access to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection detention facility in Nogales, where hundreds of unaccompanied children were being held after crossing into the U.S. from Central America. Before that, Reimer worked at WREX in Rockford, IL. Lauren is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee and still visits home often. When not chasing news stories, Reimer loves to explore, enjoying everything from trying new adventurous foods to visiting state and national parks or local places of historical significance.

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