How a mother's kiss almost took the life of her daughter

Kamilia Palu

A mother’s loving kiss to her six-month-old daughter almost took the life of her child, after she unknowingly infected her through a cold sore.

When Helen and Russell Green took baby Bonnie on her first trip to the UK, the doting Perth parents didn’t expect that it could be their daughter’s last.

Bonnie was left with hemiplegic cerebral palsy and no movement in her right side after she contracted the herpes simplex virus from her mother.

“You just don’t expect that a kiss from a mum to her daughter can almost take her life away,” Mrs Green told 7 News.

Helen Green kisses baby Bonnie on the cheek. Photo: Today Tonight

“We were in England and I got a cold sore the first week while we were there, probably from the air conditioning on the plane and a few days after, maybe a week after, Bonnie had a sore on her ear so we took her to the doctors.”

Mr and Mrs Green took Bonnie to the doctors twice over four days but they were told the infection was most likely bacterial and were given antibiotics.

Just days later, Bonnie suffered a seizure while travelling with her parents on a motorway.

Her episode lasted up to 20 minutes while a panicked Mr and Mrs Green raced her to the nearest hospital.

Doctors rushed to control the seizures and find out what was causing them.

“The doctors asked if anyone had been in contact with her that had a cold sore,” Mr Green said.

Bonnie developed a sore on her ear, prompting her parents to take her to the doctors several times. Photo: Today Tonight
Doctors found that Bonnie's brain was severely swollen, resulting in hemiplegic cerebral palsy. Photo: Today Tonight
Mr and Mrs Green are hopeful their daughter will make a full recovery. Photo: Today Tonight

Bonnie contracted herpes simplex virus from her mum’s kiss, which managed to find its way into her brain causing viral encephalitis - severe swelling of the brain.

Mrs Green said she was “devastated” by the news.

“I’m her mum, I’m meant to protect her. Mum’s kiss is meant to heal things not break things,” she said.

“I didn’t even realise I was getting a cold sore and I must of kissed her. Because I wouldn’t have kissed her if I had an open cold sore.”

Even before they can be seen or start to tingle, cold sores can be contagious.

Princess Margaret Hospital Paediatric Neurologist Dr Simon Williams said the herpes simplex virus is carried by half of the adult population, but can remain dormant for years.

Dr Simon Williams said the virus could have passed through Bonnie's fragile skin. Photo: Today Tonight

“In Helen’s case the virus is living in her nerves, so it’s always present. But when the virus builds up and does what we call ‘reactivate’, that’s when it becomes active and is able to be spread particularly through saliva,” he told Today Tonight.

“Generally speaking we acquire them through open wounds or through the mouth or things like that, but little bubs, their skin is fragile so things like this can pass through the skin.”

Mr and Mrs Green remain positive that Bonnie will recover from her injuries.

“We’re big believers that Bonnie will make a pretty good recovery if not a full recovery. You’ve just got to be a believer,” he said.