“Wash Your Hands. A Lot”— Grieving Dad’s Plea After 3 Week Old Dies

Last winter, Jeff Gobel should have been basking in the glow of being a new dad while drinking the extra coffee that comes with sleepless infant nights. Instead, he was grieving the tragic death of  his three week old daughter, Mallory, from a very common virus, HSV 1. Although it took more than a month, Jeff was finally able to speak about his grief via Facebook last February, and his post has recently started going viral again. In it, he cautions new parents to be vigilant about forcing anyone who holds or touches your baby to wash their hands.

While HSV 1, the common herpes virus that causes cold sores, is rarely fatal in older children and adults, it is often disastrous for newborns. However, most infants contract it by being kissed with someone who has HSV 1. For Mallory, that was not the case, which is why her father posted his extreme warning: in her case, it is almost certain that she contracted it through hand-to-hand contact.

Photo: Jeff Gobel/Facebook

Gober posted his warning about HSV with a picture of his precious daughter sucking on her hands, saying:

I’ve been pretty silent since Mallory’s death. It’s taken me over a month now to write this, but 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.

If you have a new baby, or will be around a new baby, wash your hands. A lot. 
If anyone wants to hold your baby, make sure they wash their hands first. Then make them do it again.

HSV-1, most commonly known as the virus behind cold sores, is a form of herpes (Herpes Simplex Virus-1). It is EXTREMELY common, and the World Health Organization estimates that 67% of all humans on Earth are infected (http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs400/en/#hsv1). To make things worse, many people who are infected will never show symptoms in their lifetime and probably don’t even know they have it. For newborns, it is more than likely fatal, as was the case for Mallory.

You might think it should have been easy to diagnose. Surely someone with an oozing cold sore kissed her on the mouth, right? Mallory was never in contact with a person who had an active cold sore. Never. Nobody ever kissed her on the mouth. In spite of that, she caught HSV-1 within her first week of life and we had to watch her die slowly for nearly 2 weeks. Mallory could not keep her hands out of her mouth and eyes and she was constantly sucking on her fingers (see attached picture), so it’s almost certain that the virus got onto her hands at some point. It is possible to be contagious even without an active cold sore.

She had no symptoms beyond a high fever for most of the first week, and by the time blisters showed up it was probably too late for the antivirals to be effective. 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, but that’s the way the world works I suppose.

Please, if you’re reading this, be extra diligent about washing your hands around newborns. Statistically speaking, you’re probably infected with HSV-1 whether you know it or not.

Did you read that? The World Health Organization says 67% of all humans on earth have HSV, which means Gobel is right—even if you’ve never had a symptom, you’re more likely to have it than not. So if you’re going to be around an infant, especially a newborn, you need to wash. those. hands. And then wash them AGAIN. You don’t have to have a cold sore or any other obvious symptoms to transmit the virus to another person.

If you have an infant, know that recognizing the symptoms of neonatal herpes can be very difficult. You should seek medical attention for your newborn if he or she has a fever, refuses to eat, or develops a skin blister or blisters. In Mallory’s case, she had a high fever for a week, but by the time the blisters developed, it was too late to save her. Do all you can to ensure that ANYONE coming into contact with your baby has washed their hands thoroughly with soap and hot water.

Photo: Jeff Gobel/Facebook

It breaks my heart to look at this sweet baby girl and know what her parents are going through. I appreciate Jeff Gobel using Mallory’s story to try and spare other parents from this grief. I know it’s not “cold and flu” season, but HSV can be transmitted at any time of the year, so I hope you’ll share Gobel’s message as well. Let’s use our voices, as Gobel has done, to keep other babies safe from the disastrous effects of HSV.


Jenny Rapson
Jenny Rapson
Jenny is a follower of Christ, a wife and mom of three from Ohio and a freelance writer and editor.

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