Vicksburg first-grader dies from bacterial meningitis

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 25, 2009

A 6-year-old described as a happy child who loved to sing, dress up, dance and, especially, eat, died early Sunday of bacterial meningitis.

“She was a loving, kind and caring 6-year-old child,” Valtreasa Cook said this morning of her niece, Vshanti Washington. “This was our baby. She was here only for a short time, but in the six years she was with us I can’t remember one day that she was sad.”

Vshanti, a first-grader at Dana Road Elementary School, was at Blair E. Batson Hospital for Children in Jackson, taken there by helicopter from River Region Medical Center.

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On Friday, Vshanti — called ShaSha by her family — had the sniffles and a fever of about 100, and her grandmother, Catherine Washington, with whom she lived, kept her home from school.

Concerned about swine flu, her grandmother made an appointment for Vshanti to see a doctor, her aunt said.

While at the doctor’s office her temperature was taken again and nothing seemed very unusual, said Cook, but Vshanti had a seizure.

Her condition quickly worsened, though she was still alert, and she was taken to River Region. There she suffered another seizure and other complications. She was airlifted to University Medical Center’s children’s hospital.

Family members who had gathered at River Region had to drive by car. “My mind was so much on trying to get there in time,” Cook said. “We were just so confused. So much happened so fast,” she said.

Vshanti’s condition worsened Saturday and doctors told the family that some of her organs were failing and she was not expected to live, but they still did not know what was wrong.

They would not know until late Monday, after autopsy results, Warren County Coroner Doug Huskey said.

Cook praised doctors and staff at both River Region and Batson. “We do appreciate greatly from the bottom of our hearts everything that River Region and Batson did for her,” she said.

School officials also called and visited the family, in the hospital in Jackson and at home. “The school has been absolutely wonderful about calling and coming to see us,” she said. “They bought food and tried to make sure we were comfortable at the hospital. We’ve been so blessed by all of them and by the support they gave us.”

Cook recalled Vshanti’s love of her grandmother’s homemade soup, and how she had insisted all last week that her grandmother make it. “ShaSha loved that soup,” Cook said. Friday, before going to the doctor, Vshanti had begged to go to McDonald’s later for her favorite homestyle chicken sandwich.

Vshanti was also a Girl Scout, and attended New Beginnings M.B. Church, where her uncle, the Rev. Andrew Cook, is pastor. She loved Hannah Montana and knew the words to all her songs, her aunt said.

Dana Road Principal Dr. Ethel Lassiter remembered Vshanti as a model of good behavior. “She was a very sweet, kind student. She moved in and did what she had to do, and was never a discipline problem.”

The district provided counselors Monday.

 “I’m very proud of the students there and of the principal and staff,” said Superintendent Dr. James Price.

In addition to her grandmother and aunt, Vshanti leaves her mother, Shirka Washington, and her father, U.J. Moffett III, both of Vicksburg, a 9-year-old brother and 7-year-old sister and extended family members.

Lakeview Memorial Funeral Home has charge of arrangements.


About meningitis

• Meningitis is an infection of the covering of the brain and spinal cord. It is caused by a viral or bacterial infection.

• Viral meningitis is less severe and clears up without specific treatment.

• Bacterial meningitis can be quite severe and may result in brain damage, hearing loss, or learning disabilities. It is fatal in 5 percent to 15 percent of cases. For bacterial meningitis, it is also important to know which type of bacteria is causing the meningitis because antibiotics can prevent some types from spreading and infecting other people.

• Symptoms include high fever, an intense headache, stiff neck, nausea, confusion, difficulty looking at bright lights and sometimes a rash.

• On average, 20 to 30 cases of bacterial meningitis per year occur in Mississippi.

• Meningitis is contagious, but is not spread through casual contact. Breathing the same air as someone who is infected should not increase risk of infection. It is spread through the exchange of respiratory and throat secretions, such as by coughing, sneezing and kissing.

Source: Mississippi Department of Health and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control


Contact Pamela Hitchins at