Newborn battling life-threatening illness, parents warn others

IOWA CITY, Iowa (WSVN) – A couple is sending a warning to other parents while their newborn daughter battles a life-threatening illness contracted from a kiss.

Nicole Sifrit described her child’s fight as “horrific” and told WQAD-TV, “It’s one of the saddest things ever, and most of the time, I’m still in shock.”

Nicole gave birth to her daughter Mariana on July 1, and married her husband Shane on July 7. Only a couple hours after saying “I do,” the newlyweds noticed their child had stopped eating.

“Friday, we noticed she stopped eating and wasn’t waking up when we were trying to get her to respond,” Shane said.

The couple cut their celebration short and headed to a Des Moines children’s hospital where the couple learned Mariana had contracted a deadly virus called Meningitis HSV-1, caused by herpes. Doctors said she likely got it from a kiss, but not necessarily an open sore, from someone carrying the cold sore virus.

“They touch her, and then she touches her mouth with her hand,” said the child’s mother.

Mariana’s parents tested negative for the virus and the newborn was taken to a neonatal intensive care unit where her condition worsened.

She had stopped breathing and her organs were beginning to fail, according to Mariana’s parents.

The following week, Mariana’s health deteriorated even further, and she was airlifted from Des Moines to the Iowa City Children’s Hospital so doctors can closely monitor her. “She is currently on life support to help her by right now,” said her mother.

Mariana is persevering with the support of her parents as well as multiple teams of doctors.

“She has a kidney team, a liver team, a blood team, a neurology team,” her mother said.

“I always thought this stuff happens, and it’s a shame and never thought it would happen to me and was not prepared at all,” said Mariana’s father.

Shane and Nicole are warning other parents to protect their children.

“Keep your babies isolated, don’t let just anyone come visit them, and make sure they are constantly washing their hands,” said Nicole. “Don’t let people kiss your baby, and make sure they ask before they pick up your baby.”

Doctors said Mariana will have to stay in the hospital for at least another month and are expecting long-term health problems if she survives.

Many people carry the herpes virus without ever showing any signs or symptoms, according to the Meningitis Research Foundation.

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