NAU student dies of complications due to rare form of meningitis

A Northern Arizona University student Lianne Dennstedt was starting her sophomore year when she became ill with meningitis.

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. - A Northern Arizona University sophomore died Monday night after suffering from complications due to a rare form of meningitis.

Lianne Dennstedt, a 19-year-old environmental science major from California, came to NAU on Aug. 26 with a sore throat that got progressively worse.

Within five days, her throat became infected, according to an online fundraiser page set up by her father Shawn Dennstedt.

Dennstedt was diagnosed with meningitis, double pneumonia and renal failure caused by Fusobacterium necrophorum. She went into a coma and was in intensive care.

“Lianne fought for her life during two weeks in intensive care, with a team of specialists doing everything they could," said Lianne's parents, Shawn and Brenda Dennsedt, in a statement they released Tuesday.

Fusobacterium necrophorum is not highly contagious and normally affects young and healthy people, said Dr. Miran Song, a pediatrician for North Country Healthcare.

“It's not a reason to panic. It's not something that most people will come in contact with and it's not something that is very prevalent in the community,” she said.

Dennstedt was a Dean’s list student and chose NAU for its high scholastic standards, her parents said in the statement.

The full statement in its entirety is below:

Lianne Dennstedt, 19, died last night in Flagstaff, Arizona from complications of a rare bacterial infection. Her parents, Brenda Dennstedt, vice president of the Western Municipal Water District board of directors in Riverside, CA, and Shawn Dennstedt, a 24-year veteran of the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department, released a statement on this tragedy:

“Last night, we experienced what no parent should have to endure. Our precious daughter, Lianne, lost her battle with a rare and aggressive bacterial infection that caused meningitis and other complications. Our family is devastated by the loss of our vibrant, loving Lianne, who had a tender soul and brought so much joy and laughter to the world."

“Lianne fought for her life during two weeks in intensive care, with a team of specialists doing everything they could. Despite every conceivable effort and prayer to keep her with us, Lianne passed away peacefully with her loving family by her side. While we cannot begin to describe the unimaginable sorrow of losing a child, we take comfort knowing Lianne is with the angels in Heaven now."

“She was the light of our lives, and we must now begin the long, painful journey to understand a life without her in it.”

Lianne was spirited and outgoing, and loved nature and traveling.  She was a 2016 graduate of Murrieta Valley High School, receiving a full International Baccalaureate diploma.  A talented athlete, she also ran cross country in high school achieving many awards and medals. 

Lianne was an Environmental Science major at Northern Arizona University, and had chosen this school for its high scholastic standards.   She was an A student and made the Dean’s List both semesters of her freshman year.  

Lianne was beginning her sophomore year when she became ill with a severe sore throat.  A week later, she was admitted to the hospital with meningitis, double pneumonia and renal failure caused by fusobacterium necrophorum.  

Lianne’s family would like to thank the doctors, nursing staff and team of medical specialists at Flagstaff Medical Center for their heroic efforts, kindness and compassion during this difficult time.  The family is forever grateful for their tireless commitment to Lianne.

Survivors include her parents, Brenda Dennstedt and Shawn Dennstedt, her 16-year-old sister, Jaimee and many extended family.

The family asks that their privacy is respected as they cope with the loss of their daughter.  Funeral arrangements are pending.  In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made at https://www.youcaring.com/liannedennstedt-943871.

© 2017 KPNX-TV


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