'Cold sore virus almost killed my baby Cian too' - Mum says son lives with repercussions
A Dublin mum has revealed her son was almost killed by a cold sore virus and has been left with life-changing side effects.
Gina Ahern said her son Cian (10) could have died when he caught the virus as a baby, and that he continues to live with the life-changing repercussions.
Cian has been left with developmental delays and epilepsy after making a miracle recovery from a condition brought on by the virus when he was a baby.
His mum Gina has been moved to share her story after a heartbroken couple in Rathfarnham launched a campaign about the risks for babies who contract the cold sore virus.
Baby Eibhlin Wills died when she was just 12 days old last December after contracting a cold sore virus.
Her parents, John and Louise, have now launched a campaign to raise awareness about the dangers of babies contracting the commonplace virus.
Gina’s son Cian was just three months old when he also caught the virus. Devastatingly, it was passed on by a family member at his Christening.
When Cian grew more unwell in the days following his baptism, Gina decided to seek medical attention for her son.
“He was blue in the face by the time I brought him to Temple Street,” she said.
When Cian was first admitted to the hospital, staff there struggled to figure out what the cause of his illness was initially.
However, on further tests they discovered that Cian had contracted encephalitis – an inflammation of the brain brought on by a cold sore infection.
Normally, the herpes virus travels through a nerve to the skin, where it causes a cold sore.
However, the virus can travel to the brain in rare cases and lead to severe brain damage.
Other childhood viruses that can result in encephalitis include measles, rubella and sometimes chicken pox.
Gina (38) said she was shocked when hospital staff told her the source of the issue.
“I couldn’t believe it when they told me what it was. I had thought I had done something wrong,” she said.
Cian ended up spending almost three months at the hospital, and luckily survived the illness with the help of hospital staff.
“The hospital said he was a miracle child,” Gina said. “We were so lucky. I really can’t thank Temple Street enough.”
Gina said she was moved to tears by what happened to the Eibhlin Wills and her parents.
“When I first read the story [about Eibhlin] in the paper, I cried my heart out,” she said. “I couldn’t believe it. I thought this would only happen to us.”
She said she is now anxious to get in touch with Eibhlin’s parents, John and Louise, to lend her voice to their campaign.
While Cian is lucky to have survived his ordeal in early life, Gina says the side-effects have had massive impacts on the little boy’s childhood.
Cian now lives with a developmental delay and epilepsy that requires constant supervision and support.
“He’s on epilepsy medication twice a day,” Gina said. “He’s been on it for a few years now, and he doesn’t get seizures anymore. But if he doesn’t take it, he’ll get the seizures again.”
She also said it remains hard for Cian to have a normal childhood.
“He can’t cycle a bike without stabilisers on,” she added. “He’s afraid to go swimming because he might get water in his ear and have a seizure.”
But she said the treatment from Temple Street has been excellent. “They taught him how to crawl and walk,” she said.
“He didn’t walk until he was three-years-old, and he had to go to physio before that so he could learn to crawl,” she added.
Cian is also progressing well, having just joined his local scouts group. He is now playing piano at Grade 2 level.
“He’s a very bright child, and very clever,” Gina said. “But he might need more help when he gets to secondary school.”
Gina also called for further recognition of the risks of the cold sore virus for young children and babies.
“They need to do more for people in cases like this, and more for kids with developmental delays,” she said. “We need to see them being recognised.”