This grieving mom hopes she can prevent other families from experiencing her pain.

By Rebecca Macatee
March 25, 2019
Baby lays in hospital bed.
Credit: ESB Professional/Shutterstock

March 25, 2019

An Oregon mother whose baby died of bacterial meningitis wants other parents to recognize the symptoms of this life-threatening infection. Because as Ginger McCall knows all too well, failing to respond immediately can have devastating consequences.

On the morning of March 15, McCall rushed her 7-week-old daughter Evianna "Evi" Rose Quintero-McCall to Salem Hospital in Salem, Oregon, according to the Statesman Journal. She says Evi, who had fever, was given Tylenol and fluids before being discharged with what the hospital staff described as a routine infection. Two days later, little Evi passed away. The grieving mother is now determined for something positive to come from her tragedy.

McCall wishes she knew to insist on a meningitis test when Evi was first admitted to the hospital. She tried to stay calm and trust the doctors, but her instincts were right: Her daughter was not suffering from anything routine, and Evi's weak, moaning cry was a clear sign that something was seriously wrong. 

"There's a stereotype of a hysterical, panicked, first-time mom," McCall told the Statesman Journal, "and that probably affected the situation."

A few hours after Evi was discharged, McCall took her to her pediatrician. When the still feverish infant threw up in the exam room, the doctor told McCall to get Evi to the emergency room immediately. He even called ahead to let the hospital staff know she was coming.

"Only then did they look for meningitis," McCall tweeted. "But it was too late for Evi."

The hospital staff performed a spinal tap and tried to stabilize the infant, yet her condition deteriorated rapidly. She was transported via ambulance to OHSU Doernbecher Children's Hospital in Portland. The baby was later placed on life support and declared brain dead. Doctors withdrew life support on the morning of March 17, and Evi died in her mother's arms.

McCall quickly learned her daughter wasn't the only baby to die from an undetected case of bacterial meningitis. She tweeted she "was greatly distressed" to read an article about a 7-month-old boy named Blaize who died at a different hospital in Salem last year. Like Evi, the baby was treated with Tylenol and discharged without a meningitis test being performed.

"It is my opinion that these were preventable deaths," tweeted McCall, an attorney and state official who works as Oregon's public record advocate. "These babies never should have been discharged. If you are a parent, TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS."

Out of about 4,100 cases of bacterial meningitis annually, 500 are fatal, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And although anyone can contract bacterial meningitis, babies have a higher risk. Several types of bacteria can cause meningitis, including Group B Streptococcus and Escherichia coli, which mothers can pass on to their infants during labor and birth. Bacterial meningitis may also spread through coughs, sneezes, saliva, and contaminated food.

Now, McCall is urging parents and hospital staff to familiarize themselves with the symptoms babies with meningitis display. Those include increased crying, increased irritability when held, sluggishness, lower body temperature, loss of appetite, increased spitting, and vomiting.

"My hope is that something good can come out of this," she told the Statesman Journal. "What I want the most is to raise awareness so this doesn't happen to anyone else."