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For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
This picture of Rachel Futterman was displayed at a memorial on the USF campus in Tampa.
[Brian Cassella | Times]
Delta Gamma president Alyssa Wennlund, left, comforts Lucy Young, Rachel's sorority big sister, as she speaks at a memorial service.
TAMPA - On Thursday, she waited on tables.
On Friday, she stayed in bed with what she thought was the flu.
On Saturday morning, she had a seizure.
By Sunday afternoon, she was brain-dead.
On Monday, Rachel Futterman's sorority sisters gathered around a poster of her smiling 19-year-old face, dabbing their eyes with tissue and trying to find the right words to say goodbye.
The pretty, popular University of South Florida sophomore died Monday of bacterial meningitis, a rapid-fire disease that left little time for anyone who cared about her to really understand how her healthy, active life could so suddenly end.
"Everyone really thought a couple of days in the hospital and it'll be fine," said Alyssa Wennlund, 21, president of Futterman's Delta Gamma sorority.
The stunning turn of events left the university community reeling over the loss while also scurrying to educate students about a disease that is rare and hard to catch, but quick to kill.
"This is a very, very intense disease," said Egilda Terenzi, director of Health Services at USF.
Bacterial meningitis is an aggressive attack against the immune system that can take as little as 12 to 15 hours to spread through the body. Those affected by the disease will feel "the sickest they've ever felt in their lives," Terenzi said.
In Futterman's case there was no sign of the disease at 1:30 p.m. Thursday, when she left her restaurant job. She was excited about her recent promotion from host to server.
That night, she attended a campuswide sorority dinner and went out with friends. When she woke the next morning, she thought she had the flu.
Her Delta Gamma sorority sisters nursed her. Roommate Amber Powers brought her Gatorade to settle her stomach.
Then Saturday came.
At 7 a.m. Powers was awakened by Futterman kicking in what appeared to be a seizure, so she called 911.
Two days later, USF honored the energetic student during an outdoor memorial service on campus.
"We at USF are feeling her death as one of us, as part of us," a tearful university president Judy Genshaft said in addressing those gathered.
Experts say group living quarters, coupled with a lack of sleep or alcohol use, can weaken the immune response of college students.
As news spread across campus of the illness over the weekend, some students felt Futterman's case was isolated.
"If you don't have it now, you're not going to get it," said Patricia Van Buskirk, 20. "There's no need to freak out."
Others rushed to get a vaccine against meningitis.
Although vaccinations weren't mandatory, USF health officials strongly recommended them. More than 170 students were vaccinated Monday. That shot can prevent the disease, but those who were in close contact with Futterman were offered the antibiotic Cipro, which can kill the bacteria once someone is exposed. Over the past three days 70 people have received the 500 milligram dose of Cipro, either by single shot or pill.
Jysikka Ryan, 19, said she previously opted out of receiving the vaccine, but Futterman's death changed her mind.
"Basically, I just procrastinated," she said. "But I need it. I'm getting it done."
Rachel Futterman had the kind of teenage years that girls dream about.
While in high school at Lake Mary Preparatory School, a small private school between Orlando and Daytona Beach, Futterman played volleyball and tennis. She was a cheerleader and a homecoming princess, and she served on the student council.
"She was always very bubbly. Always smiling. Going out of her way to make people happy," said high school classmate Bobby Zinsmaster.
"She was extremely vivacious," said Lake Mary athletic director Kathy Benefiel. "Just someone other people wanted to be around."
Benefiel said she spoke to Futterman's mother, Tamela, on Monday and was told the young woman's organs would be donated to LifeLink of Florida.
"She's still giving," Benefiel said.
Jennifer Krouse, spokeswoman for LifeLink, would not confirm the donation, but said antibiotics can make organs and tissue suitable for transplant.
Futterman left Lake Mary after her junior year and moved to Texas with her parents, Joel and Tamela Futterman, and two younger brothers, 10th-grader Robert and seventh-grader Jamie.
After she enrolled at USF, Futterman joined the Delta Gamma sorority. A marketing major, she loved volleyball and played intramural sports. She earned a reputation among her 86 sorority sisters and 26 housemates as the person you called when you needed a lift, a smile.
"She was the girl. When you needed a laugh, that's where you went," Delta Gamma president Wennlund said at the memorial service.
In January, Futterman took a job as a hostess at Gators Dockside, a restaurant on Fowler Avenue, and had recently begun training as a server, said Gators general manager Taurus Leon.
"She was a very outgoing, friendly, intelligent young lady. It was a joy to have her working for me," said Leon, who said her last day of work was Thursday.
Warren McDougle, epidemiology program manager at the Hillsborough County Health Department, said Futterman's customers do not face a risk of catching meningitis.
"You have to share body fluids," he said.
Angela Frola, one of Futterman's closest friends, worked with her at Gators.
"The most obvious things about Rachel was her love for sports, dancing and simply a good time," Frola said. "She was always positive and always there for her friends."
Frola said Futterman loved her family, the beach and volleyball, and talked often about her Jewish heritage.
"I was always jealous because she excelled at everything she did, from sports and dancing, to work and school," Frola said. "She made an impact on everyone she met. She was truly an amazing person."
Funeral services are scheduled for today in Jacksonville.
Times staff writer Jared Leone and researcher John Martin contributed to this report. Janet Zink can be reached at email@example.com or 813 226-3401.