Jeff Gober and his wife Natasha had welcomed their newborn daughter, Mallory, into the world, and she appeared to be perfect in every way. But three weeks later, she passed away suddenly for a shocking reason – so Jeff sent out a heartbreaking plea to other parents whose babies could suffer the same fate.
Jeff and Natasha Gober said “I do” in October 2012 before settling into married life in Phoenix, Arizona. After nearly five years as a party-of-two, they decided to add a third member to their family – they were having a baby.
The Gobers announced their pregnancy on July 4, 2017, in a patriotic photoshoot. Natasha’s t-shirt read “Red, White and Due.” While she held an American flag and a pinwheel, her husband showed off their baby’s ultrasound, the couple’s excitement palpable in the image.
Soon, it was time for Natasha to deliver her and Jeff’s baby, a daughter they named Mallory. The infant arrived without any outward signs that something was wrong – but within a fortnight, she would be fighting for her life.
At first, Mallory just had a fever. But by the time she started showing diagnosable symptoms of her ailment, nothing could be done to save her – Mallory succumbed to her condition after just three weeks of life. When he was ready, her father Jeff later shared the details of what had happened.
On February 8, 2018, more than a month after losing his daughter, Jeff finally took to Facebook to share his story with others. He started the post by explaining his social media absence. “I’ve been pretty silent since Mallory’s death,” Jeff wrote.
However, Jeff had decided that he had good reason to open up about what had happened to him and Natasha. “If any good can come from her passing and prevent someone else from experiencing the heartache, then I would be remiss not to make an effort,” he explained.
According to Jeff, Mallory had contracted herpes simplex virus-1, a type of herpes often referred to as HSV-1. He described the condition as “EXTREMELY common,” as it is the strain of virus that causes cold sores.
Jeff then added that “the World Health Organization estimates that 67 percent of all humans are infected. [But] to make things worse, many people who are infected will never show symptoms in their lifetime.”
Still, the mere presence of the virus is “more than likely fatal” for newborn babies, Jeff wrote. He added that he had no idea who could have passed HSV-1 onto Mallory, as no one around her had displayed any outward signs of an outbreak of cold sores.
“You might think it should have been easy to diagnose. Surely someone with an oozing cold sore kissed her on the mouth, right?” Jeff wrote. “Mallory was never in contact with a person who had an active cold sore.”
“Never,” Jeff continued. “Nobody ever kissed her on the mouth.” And yet, he recounted, Mallory had “caught HSV-1 within the first week of her life and [he and Natasha] had to watch her die slowly for nearly two weeks.”
What the grieving father could assume, though, was how the virus was introduced to his newborn daughter’s body. “Mallory could not keep her hands out of her mouth and eyes and she was constantly sucking on her fingers,” Jeff wrote.
Because of this, Jeff believed that HSV-1 had somehow gotten onto Mallory’s hands, which she then placed in her mouth. With that, he again warned that the virus “is possible to be contagious even without an active cold sore.”
Jeff then reminded readers of how Mallory’s fight against HSV-1 had developed. “She had no symptoms beyond a high fever for most of the first week, and by the time the blisters showed up it was probably too late for the antivirals to be effective,” Jeff wrote.
Understandably, Jeff was surprised that this information wasn’t more widely known, since so many people are carriers of the virus that killed his daughter. He was also finding it incredibly hard to come to terms with why Mallory would be one of the few babies to be affected by the condition.
“Considering that more than half the world has the cold sore virus, we don’t understand why so few infants die from the disease or why our beautiful daughter Mallory was the unlucky statistic,” Jeff explained. “Bu that’s the way the world works, I suppose.”
With that, Jeff left readers with a final piece of advice. “Please, if you’re reading this, be extra diligent about washing your hands around newborns,” he wrote. “Statistically speaking, you’re probably infected with HSV-1, whether you know it or not.”
“If you have a new baby, or will be around a new baby, wash your hands. A lot,” Jeff advised. “If anyone wants to hold your baby, make sure they wash their hands first. Then make them do it again.”
Indeed, experts agree that hand-washing is important, as sicknesses that afflict newborns in the weeks after their births can be life-threatening. As for the Gobers, Jeff’s hope to inform others of the dangers of HSV-1 has come true – his Facebook post was shared by numerous news outlets in the U.S. and across the world, undoubtedly reaching many and inspiring them to wash themselves before holding a baby in the future.