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13-year-old loses meningitis battle

By Johnathan Silver
July 5, 2014 at 2:05 a.m.
Updated July 6, 2014 at 2:06 a.m.

Alyssa Conchola, 13, far left, with her mother and family. Alyssa lost her battle with meningococcal meningitis Saturday.

HOW TO HELP

Alyssa Conchola's family will need financial assistance to cover funeral arrangements. A fundraising campaign can be found by clicking here.

Alyssa Conchola was the type of girl who could get dozens of people to rally around her outside and brave a threatening storm.

Friends and family are remembering the life of the 13-year-old girl who lost her battle with meningococcal meningitis Saturday after first showing symptoms at the end of May.

It's hard to accept, a sobbing Christine Garza Lopez said. Lopez's daughter was Alyssa's best friend.

"She was a beautiful, young girl," Lopez said. "She was always laughing. She was a really bubbly girl. She was always there for my daughter."

Meningococcal meningitis is a bacterial infection that causes inflammation of the lining of the brain and spinal cord.

Lopez described Alyssa's family as "good people." She had been their neighbor for about six years. She became friends with Alyssa's mother, Cathy Gomez, who raised her children as a single mother and was not inclined to leave her daughter's side during her hospitalization.

Alyssa suffered from an earache, 106-degree temperature and began convulsing one night in late May. The next day, she was in a hospital in Corpus Christi.

In early June, doctors operated on Alyssa to alleviate fluid buildup around her brain. She went into a coma but didn't recover. After testing her response by reducing her life support, Alyssa's lungs began to collapse, so doctors resumed full life support.

Gomez had to make a decision after she learned her daughter would be brain dead for the rest of her life. Alyssa was taken off life support Wednesday. The next day, family and friends participated in a prayer service under gray skies for Alyssa, yelling their wishes, hoping favor would come their way. Alyssa drew her last breath less than three days later.

Lopez set up a gofundme.com account to help the family with medical expenses. Now, she's asking community members to donate on the same page to help with funeral expenses.

"I know God. I don't go to church all the time, but I know God. And I have faith in him, but I'm asking, 'why?'" Lopez said.

Lopez and her family are experiencing a sense of helpnessness, she said, after having worked with Alyssa's family to host benefits and prayer services in the girl's honor.

"We tried. We tried," Lopez continued to sob. "We released balloons. We yelled our prayers, and we feel like they weren't answered."

A reserved Gomez said her daughter should be remembered as "a caring, funny, outgoing person."

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