The grief-stricken parents of one of two toddlers who were classmates at the same Miami daycare and died less than a week apart are speaking out about the loss of their “best friend.”
Doreen and Donald Mincey took their 22-month-old son Connor to see a pediatrician on Nov. 21 when he was sent home from the YWCA Carol Glassman Donaldson Center Day Care in Miami. The doctor diagnosed Connor with a cold and cleared him to return to daycare, but the boy’s health worsened after the visit, and he experienced trouble breathing and had a high fever.
The couple took Connor to the emergency room at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital on Nov.28, but doctors advised the parent’s to take their son to an urgent care center instead. On Dec. 3, two weeks after the initial doctor visit, Connor was dead, succumbing to pneumococcal meningitis, according to The Miami Herald. A week later, another boy at Connor’s daycare, a 2-year-old, passed away from another suspected case of meningitis.
“I think if that doctor didn’t send my child home with that fever, my child would be with me today,” mother Doreen Mincey said during a press conference on Thursday, accompanied by the couple’s attorney, Judd Rosen. “Connor was my best friend. He’s my little teddy bear… At night we sing, we said our ABCs, we prayed, we read together. And when he finish he said, ‘Mommy, good night, I love you.’ ”
Donald Mincey, Connor’s father, recalled the night he took his son to urgent care with anguish.
“He’s dying in our arms,” he said, according to The Herald. “The doctor told us to come back in four to six days. He had lost mobility by then. He couldn’t even stand. To keep giving this child Tylenol and Motrin… and he’s not improving. We knew something wasn’t right.”
It wasn’t until Nov. 29 that Connor was given antibiotics for the first time, and he was diagnosed with pneumococcal meningitis the next day.
“From Nov. 21 to Nov. 28, he was never given antibiotics,” attorney Rosen said. “We feel that antibiotics would have been able to treat the condition that Connor had.”
Donald Mincey told reporters the loss of his son was unlike anything he had ever experienced. “It’s a pain I never knew before,” he said.
The YWCA center is now voluntarily closed as the Florida Department of Children and Families conducts an investigation. So far, the department has found multiple violations, including the absence of a quarantine room for sick children, according to ABC 10 News.
“We are devastated by the death of two small children who attended this child care facility and we continue to grieve with their families and loved ones,” Jessica Sims, Communications Director for the Florida Department of Children and Families, tells PEOPLE in a statement.
“DCF is committed to working closely with the Department of Health while we conduct a joint inspection at the Carol Glassman Donaldson Child Care facility in Miami-Dade County,” Sims continues. “Administration at the child care facility has voluntarily closed until they are cleared for reopening by DCF and DOH.”
Dr. Reynald Jean, the head of epidemiology for the state health department’s office, told The Herald that both Connor and the 2-year-old received their vaccinations.
The CDC says the best precaution parents can take to protect their children against some types of bacterial meningitis is to get vaccinated on schedule, though vaccinations are not 100 percent effective. According to the CDC, babies are at increased risk for contracting bacterial meningitis, which can be spread by coughing or sneezing or coming into close contact with an infected person.
Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light and confusion, and in babies, meningitis symptoms include irritability, vomiting, inactivity and being unable to feed efficiently. These signs can develop over the course of several days, usually appearing in three to seven days after exposure. After this stage, babies can experience seizures or coma.
Death from meningitis can occur quickly and while most people recover, they may be left with permanent impairments such as brain damage, hearing loss and learning disabilities. Bacterial meningitis caused 500 deaths in about 4,100 cases in the United States each year between 2003 and 2007.
Parents are advised to immediately take their child to a doctor if they suspect they have meningitis.
This article originally appeared on People.