Friday 24 January 2020

Bereaved parents warn of 'silent killer' after baby dies of herpes

Louise with baby Eibhlín
Louise with baby Eibhlín

Patrick Kelleher

A heartbroken couple who lost their only child to a common infection have issued a stark warning to ensure that a tragedy like this never happens again.

John and Louise Wills, from Rathfarnham, Co Dublin, lost their only daughter, Eibhlín, when she contracted herpes from a cold sore virus that she picked up in hospital shortly after her birth last November.

She tragically passed away 12 days later.

Devastated dad John described the young couple's agony following their little girl's death.

"I got an immediate panic attack. I could barely take in what the doctor was saying about what had happened," he said.

"When she was handed to us, wrapped up, dead and getting colder and we were cuddling and holding her, a weird survival mechanism kicked in. I actually drove home that night and I don't know how."

Eibhlín was buried on Thursday, and the following Monday, John and Louise got a call from the hospital to say that the results of the post-mortem had come in.

"First of all, they said this was a silent killer.

"There was nothing you could have seen because she didn't break out in a rash, but basically what happened was, she said, it's herpes. She died of herpes.

"We were thinking, 'How did she contract herpes?'" added John.

John and Louise are now trying to spread awareness about the dangers of the cold sore virus for babies through their new website

"There's a huge core lack of awareness, but also a lack of awareness among our medical profession as a whole - and that's not being critical," John said.

"We have met many nurses and midwives on our journey since Eibhlín has passed and when they hear the story, you could count on one hand the number of those midwives who knew that herpes could kill a baby.

"Most of them don't."

Dr Karina Butler told the Seán O'Rourke show on RTÉ Radio One that the case was rare, but that it is a concern.

"We have to emphasise how rare it is, but we have to prevent it happening to another child," she said.

Dr Rhona Mahony, Master of the National Maternity Hospital, where Eibhlín was born, offered her sympathies to John and Louise.

"All of us at the National Maternity Hospital are very sad for Louise and John on the loss of Eibhlín," she said in a statement last night.

"We greatly admire their work in highlighting their own personal tragedy to increase awareness of the risk of HSV in the period immediately before and after birth. We look forward to supporting this brave family in their work over the coming years," she added.

Irish Independent

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News