A young mum is urging parents not to kiss other people’s babies after her infant daughter died from a common virus she caught on a play date with a poorly friend.
Emily Lang, 20, from North Dakota in the US, says she wasn’t told the other little girl had respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) until the day after she arranged for her 11-month-old daughter Presley Meeks to play with her last October.
Presley, who was born was a rare genetic disorder that left her with a weak immune system, was placed on life support within a week of the meet-up after her heart kept stopping and Emily later had to make the agonising decision to switch it off.
The special needs worker believes her friend’s baby may have contracted the illness after being kissed by someone with it, though the virus can also be spread by any infected person coughing or sneezing near others.
She said: ‘Someone must have kissed that baby which caused her to get it, then she was playing with Presley which caused her to get it.
‘It’s crazy how it can spread so fast all from kissing a baby. It has to be you being sick and you kissing or touching a baby. It’s mostly caused by kissing or touching babies when you’re sick.
‘My friend’s baby was playing with a lot of her toys and had them in her mouth. She was touching Presley so she definitely got it from her.
‘It was heart-breaking [to turn off Presley’s life support] but knowing I got to spend 11 months with her was great.
‘You have to be very cautious. RSV is very bad for babies. My message to people who kiss babies is to stay away. Even if you don’t think you’re sick, it’s not your baby.
‘Be cautious. Don’t bring sick children to play dates or day care, and no kissing or touching babies.
‘Babies do get sick and it’s harder on their system. Try not to touch them as much as you love them.’
What is Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV)?
– RSV is a very common virus and most children will be infected with it by the age of two. In older children and adults, it may cause a cough or a cold.
– Younger children under two, especially those born prematurely or with a heart condition, can suffer more serious consequences from these common infections such as bronchiolitis, an inflammatory infection of the lower airways – which can make it hard to breathe.
– RSV infection causes symptoms similar to a cold, including rhinitis (runny nose, sneezing or nasal congestion), cough, and sometimes fever. Ear infections and croup (a barking cough caused by inflammation of the upper airways) can also occur in children.
– It is one of the most common viruses which causes bronchiolitis, an inflammatory infection of the lower airways.
– Symptoms of severe respiratory infection in at-risk children, including a high temperature of 37.8°C or above (fever), a dry and persistent cough, difficulty feeding, rapid or noisy breathing (wheezing).
– Transmission can be reduced through standard infection control practices such as respiratory hygiene, hand washing with soap and warm water, and cleaning of surfaces. Ideally, people with colds should avoid close contact with newborn babies, infants born prematurely (before 37 weeks), children under 2 born with heart or lung conditions, and those with weakened immune systems.
– Smoking around young children is a risk factor for severe RSV infection.
Emily knew little Presley was sick while she was pregnant and claims she regularly visited the hospital to get checked out.
The tot was rushed to intensive care shortly after being born in November 2020 with a disorder so rare doctors were unable to name it. The mystery ailment caused her to have immune deficiency.
Emily said: ‘When she was born, she wasn’t breathing so they sent her straight to the NICU and then they noticed she had a rare, genetic disorder that caused her immune system to be very weak.
‘We were unable to figure out Presley’s diagnosis. We did over 100 genetic tests and couldn’t find out what it was, but it was extremely rare they said.
‘Anytime she got sick she’d been sent to the hospital really fast and she was always intubated.
‘She’d been sick three times before she got RSV but within two days, they said RSV can kick a baby’s butt.’
Emily said heavy breathing and a slight fever were the worst of Presley’s symptoms, but she made the precautionary decision to take her to hospital ‘just because of her past’.
She went on: ‘When she got there, she was not okay. They decided they wanted to intubate her.
‘Within two days, I woke up and they had to start bagging her because her heart had completely stopped. They had to use a balloon to keep her heart going and try to keep her going.
‘They sat me down and said they didn’t think she was going to make it. They said I had the choice whether to let her fight or pull the plug and just let her go because she was very ill.
‘I decided to let her go because she’d already fought so much in her life. There was no reason for her to keep suffering through all these illnesses and RSV was a bad one.
‘It would have been a long recovery.’
The grieving mum is now determined to stay strong and honour Presley’s memory, spreading awareness of the dangers of being sick around infants.
She has also drawn some comfort from the fact that Presley’s organs were donated following her death and have already helped save another baby’s life.
Emily said: ‘Knowing that helped a lot. Six months on, I’m coping very well. Sharing Presley’s story helps me a lot, trying to get the word out that this stuff is serious and it happens a lot.
‘Presley was very bubbly and always smiling. Always happy. No matter what, she was very content and ever really cried.
‘If she did cry, she was sick, but other than that she was happy. Always lit up the room and had such a big smile.
‘She lived a good, loving life for sure.’
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