A mother has opened up on the harrowing experience of losing her newborn son after he tragically died from a common virus at just 11 days old.
Jessica Buchanan, from Sydney, gave birth to her son Jack via a C-section in 2015.
But less than two weeks later, the newborn boy died after contracting a life-threatening herpes infection.
Writing about the heartbreaking ordeal via Dad Minus One Facebook page, the mother-of-three said her son Jack was born with ‘little fuss’.
‘He was beautiful, perfect. We were all very happy,’ she recalled.
‘Being in the luxury of a private hospital, I sent him to the nursery every night. About a third of the people that visited when we had our first, Aiden, visited Jack.
Jessica Buchanan (pictured left) with her sons Jack and Aiden (pictured centre) and husband Angus (pictured right)
Baby Jack (pictured) died of Herpes Simplex Virus 1 Sepsis when he was just 11 days old
‘It was a quiet, non-eventful week and on Thursday after six nights in the hospital it was time for us to go home.’
The mother said she initially noticed something unusual about her newborn son after he was placed in his capsule – but she quickly dismissed the thought.
‘I said to [husband] Angus, “Does he look OK to you?”
“Yep, let’s go,” he replied, and I didn’t give it another thought.’
She said while her first child Aiden ate ‘ravenously’, her baby Jack didn’t seem to have the same appetite and was fussy on the bottle.
‘Over the next two days, I tried different bottles, teats. Sometimes he fed, sometimes not so well,’ she said.
‘On Saturday night at his 12am and 4am feed his nappies were dry and I began to worry.’
She said by 7.30am the following Sunday the family were on their way back to hospital and spent hours in emergency while doctors desperately tried to figure out what was wrong with their son.
‘One year and three days after we lost our precious Jack, and after what felt like the most stressful pregnancy ever, Eloise May Buchanan (pictured left) was born,’ Mrs Buchanan said
‘The NETS (Newborn Emergency Transport Service) team came, and it took five and a half hours to stabilise him before we were transferred to the Sydney Children’s Hospital. When we went into an isolated room in ICU I knew things were really bad,’ she said.
Although her tiny son was hooked up to multiple drips, including some that had been placed in his feet, the medical team couldn’t regulate his body temperature.
When we went into an isolated room in ICU I knew things were really bad
‘The hours that followed were harrowing. There was nothing we could do to help, just watch as the doctors and nurses did their thing. They were amazing and for that, I will always be thankful,’ the emotional mother recalled.
‘Jack put up the fight of his life but unfortunately at 10.10am on Monday, 21st Sep 2015, 11 days after he was born, our son grew his wings and left us. I remember asking the ICU doctor to stop CPR.’
Recounting the horrific moment, when doctors unhooked her son and placed him in her arms, the heartbroken mum described the pain as unbearable.
While baby Eloise (pictured left) is a healthy two-year-old the family have spent months traipsing back and forth to the hospital for testing
‘We stayed with him for hours. Eventually, we signed forms for an autopsy to be performed and we left not knowing what our boy had died of,’ she said.
‘After what seemed like an eternity we got the call: “Your Jack died of Herpes Simplex Virus 1 Sepsis.”‘
She said this led to weeks of questioning as neither herself nor her husband had ever had a cold sore in their lives. Nor did anyone in their immediate family get them.
And she added, no one had visited her son who had a cold sore.
Jack put up the fight of his life but unfortunately at 10.10am on Monday, 21st Sep 2015, 11 days after he was born, our son grew his wings and left us. I remember asking the ICU doctor to stop CPR
‘I learnt that you can shed the virus when you are getting a cold sore for the first time, but we weren’t sick,’ she said.
‘Close to 90 per cent of the population carry the virus but don’t necessarily get cold sores.’
She said she began asking herself endless questions such as did he catch it from a nurse or had she unwittingly had the virus and not known?
The situation was one, she said, that started to drive her mad.
‘While we were in ICU with Jack they also discovered he had a surge of Ferritin or iron in his blood,’ she said.
‘Unfortunately, at post-mortem, they did not get a sample of blood that could be tested to follow up.’
There was also the question of whether her son had an underlying genetic condition that can be triggered by HSV.
Baby Eloise (pictured left) with her older brother Aiden (pictured right)
What is Herpes Simplex Virus 1 ?
* Cold sores (also called fever blisters) are cause by herpes simplex virus
* There are two types of herpes simplex virus, type 1 and type 2 (HSV1 and HSV2)
* Cold sores are usually caused by type 1 while type 2 is more often associated with genital herpes
*The most common symptoms of infection by herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV1) are cold sores.
* These are ulcers of the skin or mucous membranes (the thin moist lining of many parts of the body such as the nose, mouth, throat and genitals)
* Although HSV1 infection can occur at any age, most people get their first infection in early childhood
She explained this wouldn’t have affected the outcome; he would’ve died of HSV1 regardless, but ‘that sent us down a road of months of genetic testing, all of which was stressful and, in the end, inconclusive’.
‘You can’t be immunised for HSV1. Even now, I find it difficult figuring out how best to spring into action and honour Jack in a proactive way to educate people about HSV,’ she added.
Although grief-stricken, Mrs Buchanan discovered she was pregnant again four months after Jack’s death.
‘One year and three days after we lost our precious Jack, and after what felt like the most stressful pregnancy ever, Eloise May Buchanan was born,’ she said.
‘She was beautiful, and we were trying so hard to be happy. We were happy. Just a different kind of happy.’
Following her daughter’s birth, the family traipsed back and forth from the hospital to have her genetically tested.
‘It was horribly distressing having to take our new baby to the place where our last baby died. Aiden was three-and-a-half years old and kept asking if Eloise was going to die like Baby Jack,’ she recalled.
While some of Eloise’s test results came back abnormal, for the most part their daughter is a thriving nearly two-year-old.
‘She is a live wire and helped me feel love again when I was so cold,’ Mrs Buchanan said.
‘Rainbow babies are the best in some ways but there’s also an element of guilt associated with them – would we have had two babies so close together in age?
‘In saying that she is the absolute joy of our lives.’
Now almost three years after the death of her son, the family are now expecting their fourth child – and while sharing her story is difficult, it’s something the mum said she hopes may help others.
‘If me telling his story encourages just one person to wash their hands extra well, to take extra precautions around babies or to avoid contact completely if they feel the tingle of a cold sore on their lips – then it will have been worth it.’