One day, about seven months into her pregnancy, Melissa Barden knew something wasn’t right — her baby girl wasn’t really moving much.
The former Whitesboro resident saw her doctor immediately and found out that her daughter was going to be born early and had contracted cytomegalovirus.
“She spent 80 days in the NICU,” Barden said of her daughter, Brigid. “She came home and her liver was affected by the virus, but the thought was that her liver would improve over time as is typically the case with this type of virus. Ultimately, a few months later, her liver failed, they did a biopsy in December 2015 and the next day they told us that she would need a transplant to survive.”
Cytomegalovirus is a common virus, but when it is contracted in utero, it can have major complications that can affect a child for the rest of its life, said Dr. Paul Palumbo, a pediatrician specializing in infectious diseases at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, New Hampshire.
“Most of the time, it’s a benign virus, but it is opportunistic and it does cause problems occasionally,” he said. “If we were to culture every newborn in your city, 1 percent of them would have CMV, and that’s what we call congenital CMV. … About 90 percent-plus are what we call asymptomatic — it doesn’t cause any huge problems and then about 5 to 10 percent have symptomatic congenital CMV and it can be very wide-ranging.”
Since 2015, Brigid, has had a liver transplant and two other surgeries to put in cochlear implants when the 2-year-old lost her hearing, along with more than 200 appointments at Boston Children’s Hospital.
To give back to the hospital for all of the care her daughter has received, Barden, who lives in Massachusetts, decided to raise money under the charity bib program for the Boston Marathon the past two years.
In 2017, she raised almost $24,000, and so far this year, she has raised about $13,500 for the cause. She will run the race again Monday with the Children’s Hospital Miles for Miracles team.
“We as a family feel there is no way we can convey our gratitude to them, so I commit to raising a certain amount that will go directly to the transplant team and it really does help them with helping others,” Barden said. “I think it’s just our way of trying to give back in a small way.”
Being from Whitesboro, Barden has been a runner with the Utica Roadrunners, and has run both the Boilermaker Road Race and America’s Greatest Heart Run & Walk. She has missed the past few years of the Boilermaker, but plans to come back this year and run it.
Because of the strong feeling of community surrounding fundraising events in the Mohawk Valley, raising money for the Boston Children’s Hospital feels like second nature.
“Just the sense of community around fundraising and events, I think it just kind of gets instilled in people,” Barden said. “When something like this happened to Brigid, with my background, I wanted to do some fundraising for the hospital that has been life-saving for Brigid and life-altering by giving her the ability to hear and have access to sound again. I haven’t run a marathon in 20 years because I’ve had injuries, but I felt this was the way to try to give back.”
Contact reporter Samantha Madison at 315-792-5015 or follow her on Twitter (@OD_Madison).