Remember Eibhlín

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John and Louise Wills and their late daughter Eibhlín

Sheila Gahan writes:

John and Louise Wills, whose baby daughter Eibhlín died aged just 12 days from the common cold sore virus, have called for increased awareness and policy changes to prevent such a tragic and devastating experience happening to other parents.

“We are sharing our story in Eibhlín’s memory so we can create awareness about the dangers of cold sores and newborn babies. We want all parents, parents-to-be and any medical staff working with them to be made aware of the risks so no one else ever has to face what we have gone through” said John.

John and Louise have created a website in Eibhlín’s memory which they are asking the public to support and share.

Born in November 2015, by an emergency C-Section in The National Maternity Hospital, Eibhlín weighed a healthy 7lb 11oz. After birth she was sent to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit as a precautionary measure, as she had become a little distressed prior to delivery but, after five nights in hospital, she came home.

Initially, all appeared well and she had a high level of alertness for a young baby.

A few days later, she was a little out of sorts but by the following morning she was back sleeping well.

As that day went on, she seemed a bit congested but there was no cause for alarm until 11pm that night, when her colour suddenly changed and she became listless.

John and Louise headed frantically to Tallaght A&E where, upon arrival, Eibhlín was immediately taken in and a crash team called.

Tragically, Eibhlín was pronounced dead at 1:09am a week to the day since she had come home from hospital.

Following a post-mortem, the cause of death was identified as the Herpes Simplex Virus 1 (HSV-1) which is more commonly known as the Cold Sore Virus.

In Eibhlín’s case it was Disseminated Neonatal Herpes Simplex Virus 1, which incubates for a time and results in multiple organ failure but there are no symptoms until it is too late.

While this type of death is rare it is even rarer in Eibhlín’s case as 90% of these infections come from the mother. Louise has been tested and found not to have carried the virus.

Eibhlín contracted the virus postnatally and, although we may never know from whom or exactly when it happened, we know from tests that the virus was already in her system when she came home from the maternity hospital with us,” said Louise.

Since Eibhlín’s death, John and Louise have discovered that acquiring accurate statistics on newborn babies with the cold sore virus in Ireland is difficult.

This is, in part, due to the fact that neonatal herpes is not a notifiable disease in this country. They hope this will change in the future and will be calling for the Minister for Health to make this a reality.

Louise recalls that she and John were in total shock when they realised that such a common virus as a cold sore caused their daughter’s death, and horrified at the lack of information available.

“In Eibhlín’s legacy we now want to ensure the general public is aware how lethal a cold sore can be to a newborn baby,” she said.

In order to create greater public and professional awareness and education John and Louise’s aims are as follows:

· To provide an information leaflet with Eibhlín’s story and website details in the welcome packs issued to mothers-to-be in Ireland’s maternity hospitals
· To ensure that Eibhlín’s story is mentioned in the ante natal classes
· To place information posters in clinics
· To remind visitors to mums and babies not to visit if they have a current cold sore
· To provide more information to student midwives/ nurses/ healthcare workers
· To ensure consultants include Herpes Simplex Virus and Eibhlín’s story in lectures/ educational forums
· To encourage GPs to discuss the virus with expectant mothers, and after the birth of their baby, to be mindful if they or close family and friends suffer from cold sores.
· To place posters and/or leaflets in GP surgeries

They also aim to encourage maternity hospitals to include a specific infection protocol that applies to any staff member with active Herpes Simplex Virus working with newborn babies and to ensure Infection Control sections of maternity hospital websites provide relevant information for patients and visitors.

In addition, John and Louise spoke to Keelin Shanley on RTÉ’s Today with Seán O’Rourke about what happened to Eibhlín.

Listen back to the interview in full here

Remembering Eibhlín

Thanks Sheila

18 thoughts on “Remember Eibhlín

  1. Tish Mahorey

    When you have a baby, you start that relationship right at the start of the pregnancy, talking to him/her, giving them a name, a ‘working title’ so to speak before they get their real name. Lots of belly rubbing and poking and telling the bump little jokes, thinking of all the things you want to do, the holidays, the crawling around the floor with them, wondering what they’ll look like, looking forward to the warmth of them, the total dependency they’ll have on you. And all this with your other half and wishing for them as much as you that they baby will be ok.

    I can’t begin to imagine the pain of losing a baby.

  2. dav

    Pity pressures on maternity hospitals mean they are in such a mad rush to send mother & baby home ASAP

  3. Nigel

    That’s just terrible. Heartbreaking.

    There seems to have been more awareness of the dangers of cold sore in the previous generation. it was my parents that warned us to never, ever kiss a baby on the lips because of it. It was a sobering warning because I used to be prone to cold sores.

    1. ALisonT

      Such a tragic story but its good to see them putting their efforts into something that will be genuinely useful and will save lives. Thank you for your work.

  4. ams

    oh wow that is so sad :-(

    My Mam reckons I caught cold sores as a baby from my Dad – didn’t realise it could be fatal.

  5. Junkface

    Oh my God! That is shocking! I never knew that the cold sore virus (Herpes) was so dangerous to babies. I can’t even imagine the pain they both went through. I guess all safety procedures regarding that virus in maternity hospitals has to be looked at.

  6. Waddy Dilson

    Heartbreaking story, I couldn’t even imagine.
    I was in a similiar initial situation with a newborn in NICU for a week, the stress of just that alone is so incredibly hard on everyone involved. And I am greatful every day that we aren’t in a similar situation now.
    You are a very brave couple, your daughter was absolutely perfect.

  7. stretch music

    God bless little Eibhlin and her brave parents, their pain must be unimaginable. They can take some solace from the fact that due to their braveness in bringing their tragedy into the public domain they may be responsible for saving another family from such cruelty. Both myself and my wife are prone to cold sores, we have 2 young children and I have never been informed nor have heard of the dangers a cold sore can pose to a new born. This needs to be introduced to anti-natal classes and broadcast to all expectant parents and their families. I will never forget it from reading this piece..

    May little Eibhlin rest in peace, John and Louise – you will forever have a little angel to look over you.

  8. kellma

    Wow, I did not know this could happen….
    Thank you for sharing despite the fact that this comes from a place of great loss. I hope you both find the strength to get through this. How heartbreaking.

  9. SoLo

    This is so shocking. That poor family. I’m really surprised I’d never heard of these risks given how common the herpes virus is. It takes a lot of strength for the parents to come out and campaign like this for the wellbeing of others.

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