Kit Tarka's Story
By Kit's parents; Sarah & James
Kit was born healthy after an induction and emergency caesarean at 39 weeks following an uncomplicated pregnancy. He was taken away from us and into special care when he was just a few hours old due to low blood sugar. Kit was at risk of low blood sugar due to birth difficulties but we now know the guidelines for such babies were not followed - resulting in the unnecessary trauma of separation in his admission into the special care unit.
He was in special care for a few days and for most of his time there he was incredibly sleepy, not waking up for feeds and not responding to pain, even when his cannulas were inserted and when his little heels were pricked multiple times for blood tests. We were told that he was just a 'sleepy baby' and not to worry.
Kit was discharged from special care on his sixth day. We had two more days at hospital as he was beginning to show signs of jaundice but were eventually allowed home on his eighth day.
On his ninth day we were back in hospital as he wasn't waking up at all and really struggling to feed. We were admitted to the children's hospital where staff recognised immediately that something wasn't right but didn't know what; with a blood test showing infection markers, the doctors suspected a bacterial infection. This was despite the fact he'd been on antibiotics for three days in special care.
Over the next few days, Kit got a bit better and then much worse day by day until on his twelfth day he was rushed by ambulance to intensive care at the Evelina London Children's Hospital. There they did everything they could to save him but it was too late and he died early the next morning. Standing by helpless as a doctor performed CPR on our baby's tiny swollen and bleeding body is a memory which will haunt us forever. The Evelina doctors immediately suspected a viral infection, asking if we or any of Kit’s visitors had recently had cold sores. HSV1 was confirmed by blood tests the day after he died.
HSV1 or herpes simplex type 1, the virus Kit died from, is the same virus which causes cold sores in adults. When a newborn baby contracts it, they get very sick very quickly and if not given antivirals will almost always die. In 90% of cases, the virus is transmitted to a baby during birth from the Mum but we can only speculate on the most likely source of transmission to Kit. Blood tests showed no trace of HSV in Sarah, unlike an estimated 70% of the population, and James had not had a cold sore for years.
As the hospital did not consider or test for a viral infection he was not given any antiviral medication and so had no chance against such a devastating infection. In the end, HSV1 spread through his entire body and overwhelmed him.
Our beautiful baby boy died on the 29th September 2017 when he was just 13 days old.