No parent should ever have to bury their child, but unfortunately this happens more often than we'd like it to.
On June 30, Alex Dempsey and Gabriel Schultz said goodbye to their only child, Killy, just four months after welcoming him into the world. It all happened in a matter of twenty-four hours and it turns out, it could've been preventable.
The day before the tragedy, Killy developed a fever while at day care so his parents were called to pick him up early.
Upon arriving at home, they gave him some Tylenol, which usually does the trick. They then proceeded to change his diaper, and that's when they noticed some pale, pink spots. The new parents assumed it was diaper rash, so they didn't think much of it.
A few hours later, when their son's fever worsened, Alex and Gabriel took him to the emergency room at a nearby hospital. They also noticed that the spots got darker and started to spread all over his body.
Doctors suspected that Killy may have been suffering from meningitis, so they performed a spinal tap, which confirmed their fears.
"Unfortunately I had studied meningitis before and it's a fear of mine because even in adults there's a high mortality rate,'' Alex, 27, said. "When they said meningitis, that's when I had a feeling we were not leaving the hospital with our son."
Meningitis is "an inflammation of the membranes surrounding your brain and spinal cord," according to the Mayo Clinic. Once exposed to the virus or bacteria, symptoms can show up within several hours or days. While some cases will improve without treatment, many can be life-threatening, especially for babies and children.
Sadly, Killy's condition continued to worsen as time went on. His blood pressure was falling, and he was struggling to stay awake. Unfortunately, he never regained consciousness. He succumbed to the illness the following day.
According to the Virginia Department of Health, Killy was probably exposed to the meningococcus bacteria during his visit to the pediatrician's office just two days before he developed symptoms. He was at the doctor's office to get his routine four-month vaccinations.
Officials believe that an asymptomatic carrier, who gas the bacteria in their nose or throat, unknowingly infected Killy with the deadly disease. It is believed that around 10 percent of people are asymptomatic carriers, and this is why health experts and parents like Alex and Gabriel, 33, are urging people to get vaccinated.
The grieving parents are taking time to share their story and send a message to the public so another family won't lose their child.
"We really want to encourage adults, teenagers, everyone to stay up to date on vaccinations,'' Dempsey told Today. "Our big goal is if we can prevent another family from going through what we are, that's what we want, in order to do right by our son."
They revealed that anyone who came into contact with Killy has been given preventative antibiotics, because it's impossible to tell if something is wrong until the symptoms start to manifest.
"That is another reason why we wanted to bring a light to what happened because maybe this person doesn't know they have it,'' Alex said. "It might make them think, 'Maybe I should get this vaccine just in case,' which can help with those who are not in a position to do it themselves."
The vaccine to prevent meningitis isn't recommended until children reach the age of 11 or 12, but experts are urging teens and adults to get it done, especially if they're going away to college, joining the military, working with vulnerable groups, or living in tight quarters with roommates.
The majority of those who get the disease are aged between 25 and 44, but every once in a while a child gets infected.
In 2017, an 18-day-old baby dies from meningitis after a family member with cold sores kissed or touched her.
It's hard to imagine what the Alex and Gabriel are going through right now, but it's great that they're using their experience to raise awareness and help others.