Dear Citizens of McCulloch County:
Kelsey Jade was born on May 4, 1994, in El Paso, Texas, at 5:14 p.m. She was a bright, healthy and happy baby, and I had fallen in love at first sight! She was our first born, the first grandchild and the first great-grandchild, so she was doted on by many! We called her our pretty princess.
Growing up she never had any major illnesses and was hardly ever sick. She even had perfect attendance in kindergarten, until the chicken pox graced our home! She was, by all accounts, a bright and healthy six-year-old girl.
Sunday, January 7, 2001, would change our lives forever! Kelsey woke up with a mild tummy ache. She said she wasn’t hungry and that she just needed to lie down for a while. After a half-hour or so, she said she felt better, so she showered and we got her ready for church. We attended church, went to Pizza Hut for lunch and then came home, where she played outside and rode her bike. She ate dinner and went to bed at 8:30 p.m., just like she always did on Sunday night. At about 9:30 p.m, Kelsey woke up crying that her tummy hurt again and that she needed to vomit. I quickly rushed her to the bathroom and after she was finished I took her to the couch where I laid with her and put a cold wash rag on her forehead. She wasn’t running any fever and she fell back asleep, so neither Abel nor I were concerned at all. We assumed it was a stomach bug that would probably pass overnight and she would feel better in the morning.
How wrong we were! She woke again around 12 a.m. crying still that her tummy hurt, so I took her to the bathroom again, where she vomited some more, but nothing was out of the ordinary, so I laid her back on the couch.
When she awoke again about an hour and a half later her hands were cold and she was somewhat disoriented, so we took her to our bed, and I did what every good mother does, I called my mother! She thought the same thing I did, that it was just a stomach bug and that there was nothing I could do except lay with her and console her. Everyone thought it would pass by morning. When I got off the phone with my mother Abel started screaming to me that she wasn’t breathing and that her eyes were dilated.
I rushed to the bedroom and quickly started listening for breathing sounds. When none were found, I immediately dialed 911, rushed her into the living room and started administering CPR. I remember screaming at her to come back to me and that she couldn’t leave yet; I still needed her here. We performed CPR until the first police officer arrived on the scene, where we were instructed to back up and let the emergency personnel take over.
As I stood there watching them try to save my six-year-old daughter’s life, a calm presence enveloped me and I felt her tell me goodbye. As her mother, I have always had a special connection with her. You know, that feeling you get when they’re hurt or the times you know there is something wrong before they ever tell you. I had always felt her presence within my very soul and I knew in my heart that she was gone. It’s hard to remember what happened after that; it is mainly a blur.
But I do know that we went to the hospital and they worked on her for over an hour, but she never came back.
Next came the questions. What happened’ How could this have happened to such a healthy little girl’ It took less than a week for the medical examiner’s report to come back. She had died from “Viral Myocarditis” due to the coxsackie virus. What’ I had never even heard of such a thing! What is that’ Is it contagious’ How did she get it’
After hours and hours of research on the Internet, many conversations with doctors and nurses and a brief discussion with the local justice of the peace, we’ve found our answers. Although there was nothing we could have done because there is no cure or antibodies available at this time, we do feel the need to inform the public about this awful virus and the devastating effects it can have on the families it comes in contact with.
The real number of cases of viral heart disease in the United States is difficult to calculate with precision. Onset of the disease is often rapid. Many deaths are sudden and unexpected, and many cases are diagnosed only after death at autopsy. Approximately 10,000 or more cases of acute inflammatory cardiomyopathy (myocarditis) can be calculated to occur each year in the U.S.
These cases that are reported are likely to be the most serious cases of disease, having been sufficiently serious to seek out specific medical treatment or having ended tragically. There are likely many more cases, just how many more is not known, but enterovirus infections are quite common, most however, occur and resolve without serious clinical problems.
Viral heart disease is not an epidemic, but it is consistently there and it is a severe manifestation of an enterovirus infection. There is every reason to believe that a vaccine against the primary viral causes of myocarditis would greatly lower the number of cases of disease and save numerous lives.
However, there is persistent criticism that doubts whether a vaccine is “worth” developing, based on the fact that there is no way to determine who is at risk for the disease, on the relatively low number of serious or fatal cases of myocarditis. As the group B coxsackie viruses, the primary cause of viral myocarditis in the U.S., can readily infect all humans, regardless of age, gender and background. Everyone is potentially at-risk for encountering a life-threatening infection. Myocarditis rarely culminates or leads to death, and only one in every 12,747 autopsy cases demonstrates evidence of myocarditis. As to whether vaccines against the viruses that cause myocarditis are “worth” pursuing, a perusal of the personal accounts found on various websites can acquaint one with the impact this disease has upon the families of the victims.
There is a very helpful website entitled kidshealth.com that gives you up-to-date information on the coxsackie viruses. This virus is what lead to Kelsey’s viral myocarditis. The coxsackie viruses are transmitted through the consumption of food and water and can lead to a variety of life-threatening illnesses, including myositis, a muscle infection; meningitis, an infection of the brain; encephalitis, a brain infection; and viral myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart.
There is no treatment or cure for the coxsackie viruses, but with the continued support of medical professionals and good-hearted people like yourselves, the search will go on for a vaccine against this deadly syndrome and someday the lives of many will be saved.
Our goal here was to inform you of a virus that is readily consumed day-to-day by humans everywhere. Though it is rare that this virus could lead to a life-threatening disease, it does happen everyday to innocent victims, just like our Kelsey. If you have walked away with a little more knowledge about this disease and the effects it can have on its victims and their families, then our goal has been reached. You now know that you could be just like us.
Our children were taught to wear their seatbelts, look both ways before they crossed the street and never to talk to strangers. We did everything right as parents, but we couldn’t protect our daughter from a virus that was lurking in her heart. Cherish your children. They are after all, a gift to you from God! Make every moment count, because you never know when that last moment will be. I pray that no one ever has to go through the pain of burying their own child, but I do hope some good comes from our loss, that parents will realize how precious their children are. So tonight as you tuck them in bed, remember to give them an extra kiss, for now we have one less beautiful face to kiss goodnight.
This article is dedicated to our beautiful daughter
Kelsey Jade Ledezma May 4, 1994’January 8, 2001
All research for this article was obtained by:
Roberto J. Bayardo, M.D., chief medical examiner of Travis County
Steven Tracy, Ph.D, Professor of Pathology and Microbiology of Nebraska; Kidshealth.com; PacificAtti-tude.com; Dogpile.com