Upstate teen dies from bacterial meningitis, family says

Keegan Johnson
Keegan Johnson(WYFF)
Published: Feb. 6, 2020 at 12:01 AM EST
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SPARTANBURG COUNTY, S.C. (WYFF) - A family is mourning after an Upstate teen passed away from a rare form of bacterial meningitis.

Keegan Johnson was a junior at Dorman High School. He was just 17 years old.

Keegan's family said he loved sports and played both football and baseball at Chapman and Dorman high schools. His aunt, Lisa Gruenthal, said Keegan was a healthy teenager. However, he got sick a couple of weeks ago and had bad headaches. On Sunday, his family said he couldn't stand. Keegan had to be rushed to Spartanburg Regional, where he had two brain surgeries.

Keegan passed away Wednesday morning. His parents said a sinus infection worsened and lead to the meningitis. Bacterial meningitis is the inflammation of the membranes that surround the spinal cord and the brain.

"He loved sports, he loved people," Gruenthal said. "He was the first one with the hug, the big smile, whatever he could do to brighten someone's day.

Gruenthal called her nephew a hero because Keegan decided to become an organ donor when he got his license.

"As it became clear we weren't going to get the miracle on this earth that we hoped for, that we would lose him here, it has given us great pride and joy to know that he is truly a hero," Gruenthal said.

Keegan planned to go to college and continue to play sports. He leaves behind two younger brothers.

"This just isn't supposed to happen, so we've been in shock," Gruenthal said. "We have a large family, lots of love. We've leaned on one another. We've got strong faith, which has definitely helped."

In a statement, Spartanburg District 6 said: "We ask that you keep the family of Keegan Johnson in your thoughts and prayers. Keegan has been a part of the District Six community since elementary school and was also a member of the Dorman High School football team. District Six is a tight-knit community and we are heartbroken by this tragedy.”

According to the school district, the Department of Health and Environmental Control informed the district that there was no public health action needed and they didn't expect other students or staff to be affected.

D6 Cavs and The Meyer Center for Special Children plan to make donations in honor of Keegan. Anyone wishing to help the family can learn more here.

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