RIRIE (EastIdahoNews.com)—Family and community members are mourning the loss of a baby girl who died from a rare form of meningitis this week.
Harper Crider woke up with a fever on Oct. 3, and her mother, Jessica Crider, assumed her 1-year-old might have a cold. Harper and her twin, Hadlie, loved to play together, but Harper was lethargic and didn’t feel up to crawling.
“That night, her temperature was 103 degrees, so I took her to the ER,” Crider tells EastIdahoNews.com.
“They did a urine test and a nose swab, and it came back as a cold. They told me to alternate between Tylenol and Motrin and follow up with the pediatrician the next day.”
The Criders did exactly that, and the pediatrician gave the same diagnosis. But that evening, Harper’s condition worsened.
“She just started acting miserable and tightening up her arms. She acted like it hurt when I picked her up, and she started moaning,” Crider recalls.
“I took her back to the ER, and they did a blood test that showed her white cell count was down. The doctors were on the phone with Primary Children’s Hospital, and they said they didn’t know if it was meningitis or leukemia.”
After performing a spinal tap on Harper, doctors confirmed to Crider and her husband, Daniel, that their daughter had streptococcus pneumoniae bacterial meningitis.
“The infection traveled up to her brain, and it did a lot of damage to her brain stem,” Crider says. “She had strokes, wasn’t breathing that great, and she basically put herself in a coma.”
Streptococcus pneumoniae bacterial meningitis is very rare, and children, the elderly and people with weakened immune systems have a higher risk of getting it.
“Streptococcus is a fairly common bacteria that can cause pneumonia, ear infections, eye infections, pink eye and more,” Eastern Idaho Public Health epidemiologist Ken Anderson tells EastIdahoNews.com. “It can colonize in the nose of 5 to 90 percent of people. They may have it and be just fine. For others, it may turn into something.”
The state of Idaho tracks invasive cases of streptococcus pneumoniae in children under 18, and there have been around a dozen reports each year from 2015 through 2017. In eastern Idaho, two cases were reported in 2017, one in 2016 and two in 2015.
“We don’t know what makes us susceptible to it at any one moment or why,” Eastern Idaho Public Health Community Health Director James Corbett says. “There are more than 90 serotypes identified for strep pneumoniae, and it’s unknown why some turn into invasive cases.”
Doctors have no idea how Harper contracted meningitis. Jessica is a stay-at-home mom and says she doesn’t spend an excessive amount of time in public with her children. Hadlie had shown minor signs of a cold, but her health is good.
Harper was placed on life-support machines at Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center, and the prognosis was bleak. She passed away on Monday, Oct. 14.
“Before we unhooked her from the machines, her older sisters Oaklee (10) and Journee (7) were able to visit, and we told them she wasn’t coming home. She was in heaven,” Crider says through tears. “We each have our moments. We got to see her today in her casket, and that was pretty hard.”
The Criders have noticed some differences in how Hadlie has acted since losing her sister. The pair always played and took toys from each other.
“Hadlie was playing on the floor a few nights ago and then all of a sudden stopped and started looking around–basically like, ‘Where’s my sister who takes away my toys?’” Crider says. “My-10-year-old daughter said, ‘It’s really hard. I thought Harper and Hadlie would do through everything together as they grew up.’”
Harper’s funeral will be held at 2 p.m. Friday at the Ririe Stake Center. Jessica Crider’s father, Bishop Todd Sutton, will conduct the services. Burgundy is the color of meningitis awareness, so the family is encouraging attendees to wear it in honor of Harper.
A GoFundMe account has been set up to help the Criders with funeral and medical costs. Jessica says they have been overwhelmed by support over the past two weeks and hope the public understands their gratitude.
“We are so appreciative for the community,” she says. “Everyone has been so generous and nice to us. We just are just in awe of how kind everyone has been.”
Crider says her family doesn’t need a lot—“just continued prayers”—and she hopes every parent will slow down and appreciate each moment with their children.
“I wish I had more videos of Harper. I have lots of pictures, but the videos really help,” she says. “Don’t take any time with your children for granted because it goes by fast. Just hug them tight because you never know what’s going to happen.”