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Devastated parents give stark warning after baby is killed by a kiss

Evoke.ie logo Evoke.ie 2018-08-13 Eleanore Hutch
a man standing in a kitchen © Provided by Associated Newspapers (Ireland) Limited, t/a dmg Media Ireland

The devastated parents of baby boy have given a stark warning to new parents after he died when he was just 12 days old. 

Sarah Higson and her partner James de Malplaquet started the Kit Karta Foundation following the birth and death of their son Kit last September, after he was killed by the HSV1 virus, more commonly known as herpes or a cold sore.

The parents welcomed Kit by caesarean at 39 weeks at a UK hospital, and shortly after birth he was treated for low blood sugar. 

a person lying on a bed: (Kit Kartha Foundation) © Provided by Associated Newspapers (Ireland) Limited, t/a dmg Media Ireland (Kit Kartha Foundation)

In the special care unit he acted very lethargic and the couple were worried. This is their story: 

Kit was born healthy after an induction and emergency caesarean at 39 weeks following an uncomplicated pregnancy. He was taken away from us and into special care when he was just a few hours old due to low blood sugar. Kit was at risk of low blood sugar due to birth difficulties but we now know the guidelines for such babies were not followed – resulting in the unnecessary trauma of separation in his admission into the special care unit.

He was in special care for a few days and for most of his time there he was incredibly sleepy, not waking up for feeds and not responding to pain, even when his cannulas were inserted and when his little heels were pricked multiple times for blood tests. We were told that he was just a ‘sleepy baby’ and not to worry. 

On his ninth day we were back in hospital as he wasn’t waking up at all and really struggling to feed. We were admitted to the children’s hospital where staff recognised immediately that something wasn’t right but didn’t know what; with a blood test showing infection markers, the doctors suspected a bacterial infection. This was despite the fact he’d been on antibiotics for three days in special care. 

Over the next few days, Kit got a bit better and then much worse day by day until on his twelfth day he was rushed by ambulance to intensive care at the Evelina London Children’s Hospital. There they did everything they could to save him but it was too late and he died early the next morning. Standing by helpless as a doctor performed CPR on our baby’s tiny swollen and bleeding body is a memory which will haunt us forever. The Evelina doctors immediately suspected a viral infection, asking if we or any of Kit’s visitors had recently had cold sores. HSV1 was confirmed by blood tests the day after he died. 

HSV1 or herpes simplex type 1, the virus Kit died from, is the same virus which causes cold sores in adults. When a newborn baby contracts it, they get very sick very quickly and if not given antivirals will almost always die. In 90% of cases, the virus is transmitted to a baby during birth from the Mum but we can only speculate on the most likely source of transmission to Kit. Blood tests showed no trace of HSV in Sarah, unlike an estimated 70% of the population, and James had not had a cold sore for years.

As the hospital did not consider or test for a viral infection – going against widely available guidance for babies with Kit’s symptoms – he was not given any antiviral medication and so had no chance against such a devastating infection. In the end, HSV1 spread through his entire body and overwhelmed him. 

 

The couple do not know how Kit contracted the virus but its possibly it happened through a kiss or touch. Their mission now is to ‘to prevent newborn baby deaths through research and education.

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