There’s not enough paper in the world to handle a list of all the things you have to worry about when you’ve got a newborn at home. (Think: sharp corners, dirty diapers, and choking hazards, just to name a few.) Recently, one Iowa mother found that out the hard way.

One night, Lucinda Armstrong noticed that her newborn son, Ezra, wasn’t acting quite right. He had a horrible fever and he wouldn’t stop crying. She rushed him to the doctor to figure out what was wrong, and she was shocked to learn that a simple household item was killing her son…

Iowa’s Lucinda Armstrong was beaming with pride: she’d just given birth to a beautiful baby boy she’d named Ezra. Weighing nine pounds, the little fella appeared healthy as could be—until one day in May 2014.

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On the day in question, Ezra just wouldn’t stop crying. Now, this wasn’t Lucinda’s first rodeo. She had another child at the time—a two-year-old-daughter—and she knew the difference between “hungry” cries and “something’s wrong” cries. These were the latter.

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There was another telling sign that something was wrong with her two-week old: his skin had turned bright red. Later that night, Lucinda took the baby’s temperature—and she just about fainted…

Ezra’s temperature had reached inferno levels of 102.6 degrees. So Lucinda and her husband packed Ezra and their daughter into the car and rushed to Mercy Hospital in Council Bluffs, Iowa.

At the hospital, doctors and nurses poked and prodded at Ezra, administering all kinds of tests and studying the baby’s symptoms. Finally, a spinal tap revealed the cause of his crying—and the diagnosis was as serious as could be.

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Poor Ezra had an infection of the brain—meningitis. That was a life-threatening illness even for adults. There was no way that Ezra two-week-old immune system could fight off the brain inflammation on its own.

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Doctors at Mercy Hospital referred Ezra to the Children’s Hospital and Medical Center in Omaha, Nebraska, where a pediatric doctor, Dr. Kari Simonsen, took a closer look. She supported the meningitis diagnosis, but uncovered more details, too…

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More specifically, Ezra had listeria meningitis. “Listeria is a particular type of bacteria that’s known to cause meningitis,” Dr. Simonsen explained, “particularly in susceptible patients; infants are one of the most susceptible.” But that begged a bigger question…

How did a two-week-old boy get such a serious infection? “Most babies get it around the time of delivery from their mother,” Dr. Simonsen said. “The mom won’t become clinically ill because of her normal immune system.” So how did Lucinda pass it along to her baby? And more importantly: would Ezra survive it?

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Doctors told Lucinda that her baby boy was “in pretty bad shape,” but they weren’t about to give up on him. They prepared antibiotics and pumped Ezra full of fluids, hoping to beat back the infection.

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At just two weeks old, Ezra was drinking four ounces of water every two hours. Beyond being in terrible pain, the little tyke was clearly dehydrated. If Lucinda and her husband waited any longer, Ezra might not have had a chance at survival…

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“They said we probably would’ve lost him if this would’ve gone untreated,” Lucinda said. Luckily, through those fluids and antibiotics, doctors provided Ezra’s immune system the support it needed to fight off the infection. But the most shocking part of it all was that Ezra’s infection was actually preventable

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The listeria bacteria had been transmitted to him from his mother during the birthing process. There was one very simple reason why—and every new mother should know about it.

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Plenty of people know the obvious dos and don’ts of pregnancy—don’t smoke or drink; wear comfortable footwear; and make sure you’re taking your vitamins and staying hydrated. But there’s another rule that expecting mothers must be aware of…

“Things like refrigerated meats and cheeses,” Dr. Simonsen pointed out. “Deli products that are served cold.” These everyday foods in Lucinda’s fridge could have been the cause of her poor newborn’s pain.

“[I was] sitting here thinking about it,” Lucinda said, “and I just broke down in tears because I think of how bad it could’ve been if it would’ve gone untreated. If we wouldn’t have thought anything of it at the time, we could’ve lost him.”

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And while a bright-red baby with a high fever would be hard for anyone to ignore, any parent could’ve made the mistake of waiting until morning to deal with the problem. Lucinda had some advice for that hypothetical mom…

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“I’d tell them to go with their gut,” Lucinda said. “If they feel something’s wrong, it’s much better going to the hospital and figuring out nothing is wrong rather than not going, then to figure out something bad happened.”

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In the end, the hospital kept watch over Ezra for a few days, but the doctors thankfully expected him to make a full recovery. After a close call at such a young age, things were again looking up for the little one!

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Meet Lucinda and baby Ezra in the video below—and learn all about the listeria meningitis that nearly took his young life. And remember: don’t make the same mistake that Lucinda did! Avoid cold cuts at all costs if you’re expecting a child!

Who would have thought that this everyday item in our fridge could cause all of that trouble? Thankfully Ezra is okay!

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