UPDATE: S.C. high student diagnosed with bacterial meningitis passes away

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UPDATE (2/5/20 12:30 p.m.) – According to Keegan Johnson’s family, he passed away at 10 a.m. Wednesday morning.


SPARTANBURG CO., S.C. (WSPA) – An Upstate family is reeling after a teenage boy was hospitalized with bacterial meningitis.

The Dorman High School student, Keegan Johnson, had what everyone thought was a cold and, in just a matter of days, he was fighting for his life.

“It’ll never be easy and he’ll leave a huge void in our family, but it’s pretty powerful to know the lives that he impacted,” Johnson’s aunt Lisa Gruenthal said.

Despite the best efforts of doctors, Keegan Johnson’s family told 7 News he is expected to pass soon, and they are praying for peace during this difficult time.

“He had the sniffles,” Gruenthal said. “The basic sniffles that we all have.”

“Keegan was fine one minute and very sick the next,” his aunt Jennifer Lindner added.

The 17-year-old had a sinus infection last week that turned into something his family never saw coming.

“Unbeknownst to us, there was something going on in his body that led that sinus infection to spread to his brain,” Gruenthal said.

Johnson’s aunt told 7 News he had a stroke on Sunday and was diagnosed with bacterial meningitis on Monday.

On Tuesday, Johnson’s family was trying to accept the harsh reality of life without him.

“He lit up every room he ever walked into. He had this amazing smile and sparkle in his eyes, and he could make everybody in the room feel loved,” Gruenthal said.

Johnson was a junior at Dorman High School and was passionate about baseball and football.

“He was basically born with a ball in his hand,” Gruenthal said.

Family members told 7 News his friends, along with strangers, have been reaching non-stop since learning the news.

“Every message starts the same: ‘You don’t know me, but I want you to know how amazing Keegan is,'” Gruenthal said.

Most importantly, his family told 7 News, when Johnson got his driver’s license not long ago, he opted to be an organ donor. Doctors told them that decision could save the lives of nine other people.

And while they are devastated to be losing Johnson, they said they realize his passing will be a blessing to many other hurting families.

“I feel like my heart is going to burst because I’m so proud of him,” Lindner said.

“Perhaps his greatest legacy will not only be the lives he touched in the last 17 years, but the lives he’s going to touch,” Gruenthal added. “Whoever gets his heart, they’ve got the biggest heart on the planet and we are honored to know that that will live on.”

Johnson’s family is now encouraging everyone to become an organ donor.

You can register to be an organ, eye and tissue donor by clicking here or here, or go by your local DMV.

If you’d like to help Johnson’s family with medical expenses, click here.

The family told 7 News you can also donate to The Meyer Center or D6Cavs in Johnson’s memory.

According to the CDC, bacterial meningitis can spread from person to person.

7 News reached out to Johnson’s school district. They told us they have been in contact with DHEC.

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