A mum whose 14-day old daughter was “killed by a kiss" after contracting the herpes simplex virus has welcomed a rainbow baby – poignantly born on the first anniversary of her tragic loss.
The sight of doctors removing the machines keeping her baby girl Kiara alive, one by one, on August 13 last year will always be etched into 31-year-old Kelly Ineson's mind.
Born just two weeks earlier, the tot had contracted the herpes simplex virus, which is most commonly known as the cause of cold sores or genital sores in adults, but can be fatal to a baby, whose immune system has not fully developed.
Kiara before she became unwellPA Real Life/Collect
It is thought the virus must have been passed on to little Kiara by a simple kiss.
And when she also developed sepsis, Kelly and her partner, warehouse worker Thomas Cummins, 27, both of Dewsbury, West Yorkshire, made the agonising decision to withdraw life support and let their daughter go peacefully.
Lost in grief, having another child was the furthest thing from their minds – until Kelly fell pregnant unexpectedly, amazingly giving birth to Theo on 13 August this year, the first anniversary of Kiara's passing.
Kiara in hospital at 13 days oldPA Real Life/Collect
Kelly said: “I wasn't due until August 20, but doctors decided that, because I was a high-risk pregnancy, a planned caesarean section was best, and this was the date they offered me.
“Thomas and I talked it over and though we agreed it would be extremely emotional, it seemed almost meant to be.
“Kiara will never be replaced or forgotten. Her ashes are right by the side of Theo's cot, and we will tell him all about his sister when he's old enough."
Kelly, Thomas and Kiara when she was three days oldPA Real Life/Collect
She added: “August 13 will always be a poignant date for us now, but to us, Theo is the light at the end of the tunnel."
Looking back, Kelly, who has three older children, Brandon, 12, Jamielea, 11, and Harry, nine, from a previous relationship, said her labour with Kiara was fraught with difficulties.
Soon after her waters broke on July 29, 2018, doctors discovered Kiara had emptied her bowels while still in the womb, which can be dangerous to both mum and baby.
Baby TheoPA Real Life/Collect
It was decided the safest course of action was to perform an emergency caesarean and, in the early hours of July 30, she was born weighing 6lb 5oz.
For 48 hours, she was kept in hospital while doctors stabilised her, pumping her full of antibiotics in case she had swallowed any faeces during labour.
Then, by August 1, both Kiara and Kelly were well enough to come home.
Kelly and ThomasPA Real Life/Collect
“I was really happy with Kiara's progress, as were the doctors. Things seemed absolutely fine. She had lovely rosy pink cheeks and was healthily gaining weight," stay-at-home mum Kelly recalled. “She settled in right away at home."
But Kelly's elation soon gave way to fear when, during a routine check-up at 10 days old, a midwife noted that Kiara seemed pale, and had rapidly lost weight.
Worried, Kelly and Thomas raced their daughter to hospital, where doctors ran urgent tests, concluding that she had an infection – although they were not sure exactly what kind at first.
Transferred to a more specialist hospital, for the next four days, the young parents were plunged into emotional turmoil as Kiara's oxygen levels continued to drop and the infection began to shut down her kidneys, which needed urgent dialysis to remove waste products.
In time, medics concluded that she had contracted a strain of the herpes simplex virus.
To this day, they are not sure of the exact cause, but they believe it was through a kiss, possibly from somebody who did not even know they carried the virus.
Kiara in hospital at 13 days oldPA Real Life/Collect
According to The Herpes Viruses Association, many people will be unaware that they are carriers, with only one in three exhibiting symptoms that lead to a diagnosis.
With newborns, the virus can be passed on either by a kiss, or by the mother if she has had genital herpes for the first time, within the last six weeks of pregnancy. The risk is significantly reduced if she has had it prior to pregnancy, as she will have passed on the necessary antibodies.
“Before this, like most people, I thought of herpes as an STI," said Kelly. “But it's actually a virus that many people may not realise they carry.
Kiara's cot containing her ashes and some precious keepsakesPA Real Life/Collect
“There's nowhere near enough information about herpes out there. Even those in the medical profession need to be much more aware of it, and the damage it can cause," she added.
Tragically, Kiara also developed sepsis, where the body attacks itself in response to an infection, and died at just 14 days old.
Kelly recalled: “Our family all came to say goodbye, then left Thomas and I with her while, one by one, all the machines keeping her alive were removed."
Kelly holding Kiara for the first time when she was 24 hours oldPA Real Life/Collect
Kelly said: “She passed away at 6:32pm on August 13 – the worst moment of my life. I never in my worst nightmares imagined a kiss could kill my baby."
Lost in grief, Kelly and Thomas faced the harrowing task of arranging their baby girl's funeral – a touching butterfly-themed service.
Then, in December 2018, she had a strange urge to take a pregnancy test, which, to her amazement, turned out to be positive, despite the fact she was not actively trying to conceive.
Kiara's funeral programPA Real Life/Collect
She said: “I hadn't had any symptoms whatsoever – no sickness, no back ache, no late period.
“I went to the loo at home one day and spotted a pregnancy test in the bathroom cabinet. I have no idea why, but something just came over me. I can't explain it, but I thought, 'I should take that.'
“Last time I'd taken one was obviously with Kiara, so it was upsetting, but exciting at the same time – really mixed emotions. Of course, I wasn't expecting it to be positive, so my jaw dropped when those two blue lines showed up."
Kelly's positive pregnancy testsPA Real Life/Collect
In disbelief, she fetched Thomas, who sat with her while she took another three tests, each one displaying the same result – she was pregnant.
With her loss still so fresh, though, she was “petrified" for the entire pregnancy.
She explained: “My friends and family were over the moon when I told them, but I was so scared. I was wary of every little thing I did. Towards the end, I didn't even go out."
“I didn't want to do anything that would put my body under stress, so Thomas and the kids did all the housework and so on," Kelly added.
“They were fantastic, but the children were also worried. They kept asking me if the same thing would happen to this baby.
“I tried to reassure them, but of course, deep down, I had no idea myself what would happen."
Kelly's bump, late January 2019PA Real Life/Collect
At 20 weeks, Kelly and Thomas discovered they were expecting a little boy.
She continued: “It was going to be emotional either way, but I think it was slightly easier to deal with having a boy. On the way to the scan, we were both so nervous.
“Thomas said, 'If it's a girl, I'm going to burst into tears.' And I said, 'If you do, you do. It's completely natural after what we've been through.'"
Kelly and ThomasPA Real Life/Collect
Discussing their options, Kelly decided with doctors to go for a planned caesarean section.
“It felt like it was less risky," she added.
Her due date had been August 20 but at her 36-week scan, medics agreed that her unborn baby's growth had been so healthy that he was ready to be delivered any day.
A print of Kiara's footprintsPA Real Life/Collect
“The doctor told me to expect an appointment anytime between the 6 and 13 of August. It all depended on availability," she said. “Then, they came back and said to me, 'It'll be 13.'
“I told them that was Kiara's anniversary, and they offered to change it for me, but Thomas and I sat, thought and talked for ages, and eventually concluded that it was meant to be."
Heading into Pinderfields General Hospital near Wakefield, West Yorkshire, first thing, Kelly was taken down to theatre just before 9am and, at 9:28am, Theo was delivered weighing 7lb 9oz.
Kelly and Thomas with Theo moments after he was bornPA Real Life/Collect
Hearing his first cry, she said, was incredibly emotional.
“There are no words to describe that moment," she said. “Thomas and I just broke down. It was so overwhelming. We had been so anxious for months. But Theo's cry showed us he was there, he was breathing, and he was alive.
“The doctors cleaned him up then passed him to Thomas for some skin to skin contact, and his first cuddle. Then, I got to hold him about 20 minutes later, once I'd been stitched up. It was absolutely amazing."
Thomas' first cuddle with TheoPA Real Life/Collect
With Theo and Kelly both deemed completely healthy, they were allowed home the next morning, with the new mum surprising her other children.
She continued: “I came in and Harry shouted from upstairs, 'Mum, what's that crying?'
“I said, 'It's your little brother – come meet him.' He raced downstairs, it was so sweet. The kids all love him so much. All they want to do is be near him."
Now, Theo is doing well, though Kelly and Thomas remain vigilant about people not kissing him, and thoroughly washing their hands before they touch him, in a bid to prevent him suffering the same fate as Kiara.
They did not take him out of the house for around a week after he was born, and do not allow people who have recently had coughs or colds to come near him.
“There's hand sanitiser all around the house. It's second nature to us and the children now. They know they have to use it if they want to come near Theo and hold him, and they also know not to kiss him," she said.
Baby Theo going home from hospitalPA Real Life/Collect
Sweetly, Kelly sees glimmers of her late daughter in little Theo.
She said: “He makes all these little noises, just like Kiara used to. One of the things she was known for was her hiccups. She'd have these sweet bouts of them, which would always make Thomas and I laugh.
“If he was at work, I'd FaceTime him while she hiccuped and he'd have a giggle. In fact, one of the only two videos we have of Kiara is her hiccuping. So, to hear Theo do it too is almost like he's carrying on her memory."
Kelly and TheoPA Real Life/Collect
Now, Kelly is unsure of how she will mark August 13 in the years to come, though this year she asked friends to release balloons in Kiara's memory as she was in hospital.
However, she remains determined for her daughter's death not to be in vain, and continues to work tirelessly to raise awareness of the herpes simplex virus, and urge others not to kiss people's babies.
She said: “Since I went public with what happened to Kiara, I have received messages from all over the world. Every day, I see more people sharing my story and tagging their friends. I will do everything I can to continue to get the message out there. It's so comforting to see people sitting up and paying attention."
Baby Theo, who was born on the first anniversary of his sister's passingPA Real Life/Collect
Kelly concluded: “If I can save just one life, and stop one family from going through what we have, then I will be happy.
“In a way, I still don't feel like a grieving mum. It's difficult to explain – it's almost like I haven't let it all out yet, and I am still waiting for it to hit me. But I don't want to remember the emotional times, I want to remember the happy, and even though she isn't here anymore, I'm still Kiara's mum.
“Theo is in no way a replacement – he's his own person. He really is our little rainbow."
For information, visit herpes.org.uk