By JAMILA RIZVI
Beth Cockroft’s voice shakes when she talks.
It shakes like she’s been running at full speed for far longer than her body is capable of. Beth’s voice shakes as if she’s still struggling to catch her breath after that sprint, desperately searching for the strength and fortitude that will allow her to push through the pain and keep going.
Her voice is full of sadness, knowledge and broken hope.
Beth’s son Malakai was born on 31 July this year. Six weeks later, on 17 September, Beth and her husband held Malakai in their arms, as his life support machine was switched off.
After almost two weeks of being told by doctors that Malakai had a cold, a sniffle, a viral infection, Beth’s youngest son passed away from whooping cough.
When Beth went to submit Malakai’s death notice to the local paper and explained how he’d died, the response was this: ‘Whooping cough? No. That’s not a worry any more.’
‘Yeah it is,’ was Beth’s reply. ‘My son just died of it. It is still out there.’
Mamamia spoke to Beth earlier this week. For a full hour she quietly and methodically told Malakai’s story.
This is what she said.
Mamamia: Beth, tell me about bringing Malakai home for the first time. I know that he was born prematurely and had to stay in hospital a little longer.
Beth: I spent one night in the hospital doing what’s called rooming in. Malakai was premature so had spent a bit of time in the hospital and I hadn’t been with him. So rooming in is when the nurses are with you while you settle with each other and get to know each other again.
I’d said to my partner a couple of days before [the rooming in], ‘I’m really really sick, I’ve never been this sick before’. But the problem was that everyone was sick, he was sick, the grandparents were sick, the neighbours were sick.
We live in a small town and everybody was sick.
You’d run into the street and they’d go, ‘You know, I’ve been coughing for months.”
So the night I spent in hospital rooming in, I was coughing and coughing. I’d taken really minimal painkillers during the pregnancy but took Sudafed the night I was in the hospital. Coughing and coughing. We were discharged together and about a week and a half later he was unwell and we took him to the GP.
Mamamia: When did you first notice that something was wrong? What did the GP have to say when examining Malakai?
Beth: Malakai had been coughing. I took him to the GP and he told us that Malakai had a cold. Just a cold. We spoke to the GP about whooping cough amongst all of the other possibilities. We said, do you think it could be whooping cough. “No, no,” we were told. “It’s just a cough.”