'One is enough': Parents share heartbreaking story of newborn's death

Baby Julian was just six days old when he died from a deadly virus.
Baby Julian was just six days old when he died from a deadly virus. Photo: Denise Brajkovic /Facebook

"How could this be? Not in this day and age," devastated mum Denise Brajkovic says. 

It's been almost two months since Denise and her husband Mathew lost their baby son Julian at just six days old, but the tragedy still makes no sense to the grieving parents.  

The couple, who describe their pain as "unthinkable",  is now sharing the story of how their newborn succumbed to an insidious strain of Enterovirus virus in the hope of preventing further deaths.

Baby Julian Brajkovic and mother, Denise Brajkovic,
Baby Julian Brajkovic and mother, Denise Brajkovic, Photo: Denise Brajkovic

"One is enough," Mrs Brajkovic tells Essential Baby, adding that although the virus only kills two a year in NSW #1isenough to spur action. "We made the decision to go public, probably too soon as it's still very raw, but the quicker we get the message out there - the better. 

"You don't get told that a flu could kill your child in the last trimester."

In a heartbreaking Facebook post Mrs Brajkovic explains that she contracted the virus herself while 35 weeks pregnant. Experiencing flu-like symptoms, severe chills and body aches, she was concerned about Julian and went to hospital to be assessed. Doctors conducted blood and urine tests, "but everything came back OK."

"A day later I was feeling better and getting ready to deliver our baby boy in a week," she continues. "Little did we know that this evil virus had been transferred in utero to Julian."

Mrs Brajkovic explains that newborns have very little immunity and rely on their mother's immunity to pass onto them. "Julian didn't get any immunity from me because it was too late in my pregnancy for the immunity to pass through the placenta to him," she says.

When their little boy was born on July 9 at Nepean Private Hospital, Mrs Brajkovic says he was a "perfectly healthy baby. Or so we all thought."

But at just three days old, Julian began experiencing symptoms of the virus, unbeknownst to medical staff.

"Symptoms were masked under typical newborn behaviours," Mrs Brajkovic says. "He was a bit grizzly and didn't really want to feed as much." After consulting doctors and nurses, however, she was assured it was normal. 

"Deep down inside I didn't have a good feeling," Mrs Brajkovic continues.

On day four, the family were discharged with Julian's big sister, three-year-old Audrey, thrilled to have "her baby" come home.

At six days old, Mrs Brajkovic writes that her son was becoming more and more lethargic and wouldn't feed at all.  At 2am they rushed to emergency at their local hospital in Katoomba where doctors starting working on their baby.

"They were perplexed that nothing they were doing was working," Mrs Brajkovic says. She and Julian were airlifted to Westmead Children's Hospital.

Hours after he arrived, Julian was diagnosed with Echovirus 9. By then, Julian was bleeding internally with signs of  liver failure. 

"Rarely contracted. Deadly to infants. No cure. No drugs that can save him," Mrs Brajkovic says, adding that the words were unbelievable to hear.

In fact, the doctor had seen just six cases in 17 years - and five were fatal.

The medical team worked on on their little boy tirelessly for hours. "Julian fought all the way and didn't give up," she says.  But a brain scan revealed the worst - Julian was brain dead.

"Mat and I then had to make the most unimaginable decision to have our son taken off life support," Mrs Brajkovic says.

Their beautiful boy died in their arms.

"My reason for sharing this incredibly painful story is that Mat and I want to stop this happening to another baby," she says, adding that the couple are working with doctors, including her GP, her obstetrician and the treating physician at Westmead Children's Hospital to raise awareness around Enterovirus and the dangers of contracting it during late pregnancy.

"Pregnant woman get told to not eat shellfish, soft cheese, drink alcohol, getting the whooping cough vaccine. Not at any point do they tell you 'hey, if you present with these type of flu like symptoms you could be infected with Enterovirus and it kills your baby.'"

She's now urging anyone who has been affected by the virus to contact her.  "We need you," she says. "Baby Julian Brajkovic and all the other babies that died from this evil virus need you."

She also has a message to women in their third trimester: be careful. "Limit your contact in public places. I contracted [the virus] from a shopping centre ... Wash your hands more often."

Mrs Brajkovic explains that her daughter Audrey, who she says misses "her baby" dearly, is giving her the strength and will to go on.
According to NSW Health, while most enterovirus infections are mild, rarely, some strains can cause more severe illness, particularly in young children. 
You can contact Mrs Brajkovic via Facebook or Instagram