“Music has a way of carrying the universal heart experience that nothing else can,” says songwriter Debra Lynn Alt, who was inspired by Lisa Saunders’ story.
“I couldn’t react at first because it was so personal and deep,” says Saunders whose daughter, Elizabeth, was diagnosed with congenital CMV, which can pass from a woman to a fetus during pregnancy.
“She never rolled over, she never sat up,” says Saunders of her daughter who had severe brain damage.
When she was pregnant, Saunders ran a licensed daycare and had a toddler, which put her most at risk for complications.
“They’ve done studies that 75% of the time toddlers are carrying the virus and have it in their saliva and urine – it’s person to person contact,” says Dr. Brenda Balch, a pediatrician.
According to the CDC, 30,000 babies are born with the virus each year in the United States. 5,000 suffer serious complications such as mental disabilities, vision problems and hearing loss.
“Parents still don’t know about CMV, pregnant moms still don’t know how to prevent CMV,” says Balch.
Pregnant women shouldn’t share food or drinks with a toddler. They should wash hands often, especially after diaper changes. And they shouldn’t kiss a small child directly on the mouth.
“I’m trying to create free materials for people – signs they can hang-up,” says Saunders, pointing out a placemat she made as a teaching tool.
She was instrumental in the passing of a law requiring newborns to undergo CMV screening if they fail a hearing test. But she believes more legislation, regarding education, is needed.
Elizabeth passed away when she was 16. Saunders always as her daughter in her heart while finding ways to teach others.
“My mission is nowhere near complete, I have a lot more work to do,” she says.