At first, 6-day-old Mariana struggled to eat. Then, she couldn’t stay awake no matter how hard her parents, Nicole and Shane Sifrit, tried. Soon, she began breathing rapidly.
After they rushed her to the emergency room, little Mariana was given the diagnosis of meningitis HVS-1. Doctors suspect she caught the virus after a loved one with cold sores touched or kissed her.
Less than two weeks after falling ill, 18-day-old Mariana died. Now the Sifrits hope others can learn from their story.
“I never really thought this could happen to us,” Nicole Sifrit, 32, told TODAY via email. “We hope to bring awareness to other parents of newborns to be cautious on who visits your baby, who holds or touches them, and don't let others kiss your baby.”
Sifrit and Shane do not have the virus — the common herpes simplex virus type 1, which causes cold sores. Johns Hopkins Medicine estimates that anywhere from 50 to 80 percent of adults carry this virus.
Mariana could have been infected by anyone, from employees in the maternity ward to family members or friends. The person who exposed Mariana to the virus didn’t even need to have cold sores at the time to spread the infection.
When she first arrived at Blank Children’s Hospital in Des Moines, doctors gave Mariana medications to treat the virus and then blood transfusions. Nothing helped.
“Hour by hour, day by day, she increasingly got worse,” Sifrit said.
The virus damaged her organs. First her liver started failing, then her kidneys. Doctors transferred Mariana to University of Iowa Hospitals for dialysis to help the kidney failure. But these treatments didn’t slow the virus’ progression.
“It’s common for newborns with this virus to deteriorate quickly,” said Sifrit.
While she never recovered, the infant experienced a few good days.
“There were days that she was more stable than others; she was a truly a fighter,” Sifrit said. “She was still fighting and we had to fight with her.”
But soon, the virus overwhelmed her tiny body.
“It then moved to her heart and lungs as her body started shutting down,” she said.
While the family feels devastated by Mariana’s loss, they take comfort knowing they were with her during her final moments.
“We are thankful we were able to say goodbye to our princess as many of parents lose their children unexpectedly,” Sifrit said.
A friend of the couple set up a fundraising page to help the grieving family pay for the unexpected medical costs.
In a message she posted on Facebook, Sifrit expressed her gratitude for the encouragement the family and Mariana received.
“She is now no longer suffering and is with the Lord. Thank you to everyone who has followed her journey and supported us through this. In her 18 days of life she made a huge impact on the world and we hope with Mariana's Story we save numerous newborns.”