I was 40 weeks pregnant and beyond ready to hold my son in my arms after nine months of waiting. It was my due date and I finally went into labor and our life changed . . . nothing could make us happier than holding our healthy little baby. 

The maternity floor was full so after delivery, we were moved to the pediatric floor. The staff offered to take the baby to the nursery so I could get some sleep after my long, hard labor since I was alone and my husband was with my daughter. When he came back, he saw that there was no nursery on the pediatric floor and he was just in the hallway by the nurse’s station, so what happened during that time will always be a mystery.

Two days after we brought him home, my son woke up with a 100.4° fever. We called our pediatrician and she told us to go to the hospital. When we arrived at the ER, he had no fever but doctors wanted to do some tests—including a lumbar puncture—and they wanted to start him on antibiotics and an antiviral right away. It was probably the hardest decision of our lives to let an ER doctor do a lumbar puncture on our newborn son and start him on meds when he looked completely normal and we were still unsure if he actually had a fever. We almost wanted to just forget the whole thing and go back home.

Thank God we made the right decision.

After two long days, the results came back as positive for HSV1, more commonly known as the herpes virus that causes simple cold sores.

At first, doctors thought he caught the virus from me, his mother, but after test results came back, it was determined I never had the virus and it had been transmitted by a simple touch or kiss from an infected person. Cold sores are not a big deal for adults and about 80% of people get them in their lives—but in newborns, the virus can be fatal. 

The doctors told us if we hadn’t taken our son to the hospital so quickly (even 12 hours later would have changed things) or if the doctor hadn’t started him on antiviral medication right away while we waited for test results (which ISN’T protocol but SHOULD BE) . . . it would have led to permanent brain damage or been fatal.

The fact that there is barely any news coverage or awareness about this danger, and that we still live in a society where people get offended if you tell them not to kiss or touch newborn babies, is crazy.

My son had to spend months in the NICU and on antivirals and antibiotics. He is still affected by this virus and an outbreak could make him very sick again. He has a long way to go and we are hoping for the best as he gets stronger and older.

All of this happened because someone didn’t take a cold sore seriously enough to stay away from a newborn. 

He has been a survivor of this deadly virus, but many babies are not. His team of doctors encouraged me to share his story so we might be able to save another baby’s life and impact hospital protocols. It took me a while to be able to share it with everyone but I feel responsible because no other family deserves to go through this. 

Please share this with any new moms you know and please take all precautions when you are around a newborn baby—because even a kiss can kill them. 

You may also like:

It’s RSV Season—Please Don’t Kiss the Babies

There’s Nothing Quite Like a Nurse

Zahra Khademi

My name is Zahra and I am 23 years old. I was raised in Copenhagen, Denmark. And now live in Bethesda, MD with my husband. We have a 3-year-old daughter and a 1-year-old son. I am finishing my architecture degree next semester.