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A Recent Tragedy Highlights the Importance of Informing New Parents About Infants and Immunity

infants and immunity

Finding out that you’re going to be a parent is simultaneously one of the most exciting and one of the scariest moments in your life. The realization that you will soon be required to care for a tiny human is daunting, to say the least. A thousand questions follow, and though 9 months may seem like a long time, it goes by in a flash that ends with a million more questions. Throughout that time, first-time parents are bombarded with information from every side about prenatal care, the process of childbirth, and postnatal follow-up.

How important information gets lost

During the blitzkrieg of information that follows a positive pregnancy test, parents-to-be don’t have the luxury of research time. Instead, they struggle to adapt to the idea that new routines and priorities have entered their lives. Mostly, it’s a desperate, headlong rush to stay on top of mundane details while preparing for a whole new life.

From ABC 13:

“Nicole and Shane Sifrit welcomed baby Mariana on July 1. A week later — two hours after the couple’s wedding — they say they noticed that the girl was not eating and would not wake up when they tried to get her to respond. ‘It’s horrific,’ Nicole Sifrit said. ‘She had quit breathing, and all her organs just started to fail.’ The couple left their wedding early to take Mariana to Blank Children’s Hospital in Des Moines, where they learned that she had contracted meningitis HSV-1, caused by the herpes virus — the same virus that causes cold sores.”

Exactly how Mariana contracted HSV-1 will likely remain a mystery. Both of her parents tested negative for the virus, though Johns Hopkins Medicine suggests that the infection point could have been a well-wishing visitor. According to the World Health Organization, approximately 67% of the global population carries the virus, which is mostly harmless in those with fully developed immune systems. Most people aren’t even aware that they are carriers.

Unfortunately, newborns are highly susceptible to infection; they are born without a functioning immune system. Whatever protection they are afforded comes from their mother through placental transfer and breast milk; breastfed babies get sick far less often than their bottle-fed counterparts. However, no amount of passive immunity can prevent a point infection from developing into a full-blown illness. Babies simply lack the ability to fight systemic infections until they are around 5 months of age.

A failure to communicate

Healthcare professionals are aware of this fact and do their best to inform new parents of the risks of exposing their children to visitors and situations that can pose health risks. However, new parents are dealing with a million details when a baby arrives; despite these efforts, the messages don’t always stick.

The Sifrit’s have experienced an unbelievable tragedy, and our thoughts and prayers are with the young family. Despite her terrible loss, Nicole Sifrit hopes that other new parents can learn from her loss, imploring new parents to, “Keep your babies isolated. Don’t let just anyone visit them. Make sure they are constantly washing their hands. Don’t let people kiss your baby. And make sure they ask before they pick up your baby.”

All patients have rights, including newborns. Hospitals and other healthcare facilities work diligently to ensure a safe and protected environment for their patients, but sometimes, even the best efforts aren’t enough to prevent a tragedy. At Crandall & Pera Law, we fight for those who can’t fight for themselves to help families recover after a medical mistake. For a free consultation, call our Kentucky legal team at 877.651.7764, our Ohio legal team at 877.686.8879, or contact us today.

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