July 7 was supposed to be a happy day for Nicole and Shane Sifrit and their newborn, Mariana. It was the Iowa couple's wedding day, held a week after Nicole gave birth to her baby girl. But just two hours after the ceremony, the new parents noticed Mariana was not eating and wouldn't wake up.
They left their wedding early and took Mariana to Blank Children's Hospital in Des Moines, where she was sent to the NICU.
"It immediately went downhill from there. Within two hours, she had quit breathing and all of her organs just started to fail," Shane told WHO TV.
Turns out, the newborn had contracted Meningitis HSV-1, a virus caused by herpes that leads to an inflammation of the lining around the brain and spinal cord. Symptoms in babies include poor eating, irrtability, fever, sleepiness and lethargy.
The parents don't know exactly where Mariana contracted meningitis from. Both parents tested negative for the virus. Doctors think it could be carried by someone with the cold sore virus, though not necessarily with an open sore. The virus could be transmitted by a kiss or by the person touching Mariana, then Mariana touching her mouth with her hand.
The virus rarely develops into meningitis, even in babies. According to the Meningitis Research Foundation and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, most people recover with no noticeable effects, but babies younger than 1 month old and people with weakened immune systems are more likely to have severe illness from viral meningitis.
Mariana was life-flighted to the University of Iowa Children's Hospital on July 10, where her conditioned worsened.
On July 17, the heartbroken mom posted on Facebook, "My heart is crushed, my baby is declining fast! She has no brain activity and her lungs and heart are failing along with her kidneys and liver."
On July 18, the parents announced Mariana's passing at 8:41 a.m. She died in Shane's arms, with Nicole right besides her.
"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 life. R.I.P., sweet angel," the mom wrote.
The parents hope that their experience can save others.
"I always thought this stuff happens and it's a shame and never thought it would happen to me. I was not prepared at all," they told WHO TV. "Keep your babies isolated. Don't let just anyone come visit them. Make sure they are constantly washing their hands. Don't let people kiss your baby and make sure they ask before they pick up your baby."
In September of 2015, another mom, Claire Henderson, warned other parents of the dangers of letting visitors kiss your newborn baby. A friend, who had not yet exhibited any symptoms but had the herpes simplex virus 1, kissed Henderson's baby on the mouth. Luckily the newborn's symptoms were caught early on she did not suffer any serious neurological damage.