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Meningitis death tied to Elkhart

– The family of a southern Michigan woman said Thursday they believe she died of fungal meningitis after receiving two injections of a tainted back pain medication at a northern Indiana clinic.

Pauline Burema, 89, of Cassopolis, Mich., died Wednesday at a daughter’s home in Bristol, Ind., said the woman’s granddaughter, Lisa Ann Durbin.

The family was awaiting autopsy results to confirm the cause of death, Durbin said. But doctors told the family they think Burema had contracted fungal meningitis from shots she received Aug. 22 and Sept. 8 at OSMC Outpatient Surgery Center in Elkhart.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed an Indiana fungal meningitis death Thursday, and Angela Minicuci, a spokeswoman at the Michigan Department of Community Health, said a Cass County, Mich., resident died of fungal meningitis after being treated for back pain in Indiana. Cassopolis is in Cass County.

Burema was found unconscious Oct. 3 in her home about 15 miles north of Elkhart, Durbin said. She had seen her doctor just two days earlier.

“She was in perfect health. She was getting ready to go to New Mexico for the balloon festival,” Durbin, of Decatur, Mich., said in a telephone interview.

The family initially believed Burema suffered a stroke, and she was admitted to an Elkhart County hospital, Durbin said. She regained consciousness, but her condition worsened, and Burema spent her final days at her daughter’s Bristol home.

The family was “pretty upset” when doctors said she contracted meningitis from the steroids she took for recurring back pain, Durbin said.

“It’s kind of a devastating way to pass away. You could tell she was in a lot of pain,” Durbin said. She said her grandmother was being treated with morphine, other painkillers and several different antibiotics. Burema also had a “growing” black fungus inside her mouth before she died, Durbin said.

The family decided to donate Burema’s body for research, Durbin said.

“What our family is hoping is that they can find a cure to maybe help out all the other patients so that not everybody has to die,” she said.

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