CMV symptoms: Mother who passed cold-like virus onto her daughter was told she’d never walk or talk

A mother who was told her daughter would never walk or speak after she caught a cold during pregnancy has shared her joy after the brave child waved for the first time.

Minnie-Mae Farnell’s proud mother Courtney, 23, said she was left “so emotional” after the tot looked over to her from her cot and stretched out her arms to greet her.

Courtney even managed to capture the adorable moment on video, adding it was a “massive milestone” for the bubbly three-year-old.

She said: “Minnie has just waved hello at me at three years old, she just waved for the very first time. I am so so emotional.

“This is a massive milestone for Minnie, the girl I was told would never move or have any quality of life.”

Courtney caught common cytomegalovirus (CMV) – a virus that causes cold-like symptoms – eight weeks into her pregnancy, which then passed on to Minnie-Mae.

The virus, which is transferred in saliva, tears and urine, is usually harmless but can be fatal to unborn babies. Courtney believes she contracted the illness while caring for vulnerable people.

Courtney said she was urged to abort her baby by medics, but decided to go ahead with her pregnancy. Minnie-Mae was born in September 2019.

While Minnie-Mae suffers from anaemia, stiffness, muscle weakness, epilepsy and severe brain damage, Courtney said she doesn’t regret her decision to keep her.

And after years of hospital visits, she said it was incredible to see her “smiling” and able to communicate with her mum in such a “happy” way.

(Courtney Farnell / SWNS)

Courtney said: “The baby they told me would never move was walking in front of my eyes. I was told she would be blind, deaf, never walk or talk.

“Look at her now. She is always smiling. She is always so happy. Minnie-Mae makes me proud in all different ways.”

Courtney, from Leeds, West Yorkshire, fell pregnant in January 2019 and had some bleeding early on, but it was dismissed as normal.

And a scan at 12 weeks revealed her unborn baby had fluid on the brain – a sign of CMV – but it quickly disappeared.

However, her next scan at 20 weeks revealed “everything was wrong”, with little Minnie-Mae having severe brain damage and liver and kidney problems due to CMV.

The virus is responsible for cold sores and chicken pox, but only around 1 in 1,000 babies born in the UK every year will have permanent disabilities as a result.

(Courtney Farnell / SWNS)

But if a mother catches it for the first time whilst pregnant, it can be transferred to the unborn baby and cause birth defects.

The only way to prevent CMV is by taking hygiene precautions like washing your hands with soap and not sharing cutlery or cups with children.

Courtney said she faced an incredibly difficult dilemma when she found out the virus had been passed on to her baby, but later decided to go ahead with her pregnancy.

She said: “They told me she would never breathe on her own. It was like, bang, something just hit me in the heart.

“They told me to terminate the pregnancy, that I was really young and would be her carer for life – but I was a carer anyway as my job so I didn’t want to give up.

“Everybody was supportive of my decisions to continue, but because none of them could ever relate to the pain I was feeling I think they felt awkward about what they could do.”

(Courtney Farnell / SWNS)

Courtney was induced at 34 weeks due to reduced movement, and Minnie-Mae was born on September 3 2019 at 11:58pm, weighting only 2lbs 4oz.

After nine hours, she was taken off life support in St James’s University Hospital, Leeds, and defied the odds to breathe on her own.

She has since attended hundreds of hospital appointments with Minnie-Mae while seeking to spread awareness of CMV, particularly among pregnant mums.

Courtney said: “If you catch the CMV in the first stage of pregnancy it can have horrific outcomes.

“You can catch the virus through changing nappies and bottles, that I was doing regularly as a carer for both kids and adults, as well as just not washing your hands.

“You don’t even notice it if you’re not pregnant, but nobody ever warned me about it.

“I was mortified when I found out I could have caught the virus through my caring work.”

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