It all started with a simple sore throat in February, 2008 — something most parents wouldn't even consult a doctor about. But within days, 17-year-old St. Vincent's High School soccer star Michael Iniguez was admitted to the hospital, near death as an infection ravaged his organs.
Iniguez was one of the lucky ones. Unlike many who suffer from the disease, Iniguez was diagnosed with Lemierre's Syndrome, a rare and deadly disease that often goes overlooked by physicians because it presents with such basic symptoms, such as fever, shortness of breath and fatigue. For these reasons, it is also known as the "forgotten disease."
On Monday, April 7, the Rotaract Club of Southern Sonoma County will host a night of awareness and fundraising for the Justin E. Rodgers Foundation, the nation's only nonprofit organization dedicated to Lemierre's Syndrome. The night will include a pasta feed by Sally Tomatoes alongside a decadent dessert bar, music from the Highway Poets and a raffle. Dr. Thomas Arnold, of UCSF, who diagnosed Iniguez when he was in high school, will speak about the disease.
"We're really targeting the medical field with this fundraiser so doctors and nurses can learn more about Lemierre's," said Teresa O'Grady, who coordinating the fundraiser for Rotaract, a service club for young professionals ages 18 to 30.
Lemierre's Syndrome is caused when bacteria builds up in the jugular vein, creating a blood clot. Pieces of the clot then break off and travel to a range of organs, causing significant damage. In his 23 years, Iniguez has survived two open heart surgeries.
"The biggest change this experience has given me is my outlook on life and not taking things for granted," Iniguez said of his experience on the television show "Medical Mysteries."
Funds raised at the April 7 event will benefit additional research into a cure, as well as spread awareness about the disease. Set at Lagunitas Brewing Co., the event runs from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m.
Tickets are $16 and can be purchased at the door or by going online to le mierres.brownpapertickets.com.