We’ve heard a lot about the biology behind Zika’s causes of microcephaly but haven’t heard a lot about the patients themselves.
Keegan and Corey Kistenmacher had their daughter Cassidy on January 20th, 2016, around the time when Zika was making headlines and affecting newborns. They had no idea that their new gift would be among those who suffered.
When she was born, Cassidy’s was a little over three pounds and had a smaller than usual head. At first they thought it was normal but as Cassidy grew, her head didn’t. They took her to the hospital shortly after and were hit with the diagnosis: Microcephaly.
They immediately began doing research on the rare disease and found nothing positive online, learning that anywhere from two to 12 babies out of 10,000 live births carry microcephaly.
As time went on, they made note of Cassidy’s weight and size and made sure she wore a helmet to protect her sensitive head. Despite the difficulties, Cassidy never complained and was always a calm and collective little girl. With this calm, came a perpetual smile that made everyone’s hearts melt.
“She was just absolutely the happiest little girl ever,” Keegan said to the News Tribune. “She had so much personality for being 19 months old. Everybody who saw her just loved her.”
In August, Cassidy caught a fever and double ear infection. Shortly after, when Cassidy was only 19 months old, she passed way in her sleep, in the comfort of her home and of her crib.
“She passed sometime in the middle of the night,” Keegan said. “It just really hit us blindly.”
On the days leading up to her death, Keegan, a daycare teacher, was able to take time off from work and spend every moment she could with Cassidy. She is grateful for the short, yet memorable moments she had.
At the funeral, they celebrated her life more so than mourning her death and wore yellow to raise awareness about the rare disease. A month after Cassidy’s untimely death, it was Microcephaly Awareness Day.
Keegan and Corey have vowed to educate others about this disease and to assure them that it’s not as scary as it sounds. To read more, click here.