Warning: The video contained in this post may be distressing for some viewers.
She should be planning his first birthday party. Writing lists and ordering balloons.
She should be baking cupcakes and buying train sets stunned at how quickly he grew in a year, the bittersweet knowledge that your baby is nearly a toddler.
But instead Catherine Hughes is working to save other babies, other lives, to save your children. As the anniversary of the birth of her son, Riley approaches she has shared a heartbreaking video she hopes will make us all sit up and take notice.
She wants us all to talk about vaccinations.
Riley Hughes was just 32 days old when he died from whooping cough. He was too young to have his vaccinations and his mother, Catherine had not been told that while she was pregnant she could have been vaccinated, providing some immunity to Riley.
In the video she has shared of her precious son only days before he passed away Riley is struggling to breathe, the newborn is coughing every couple of seconds, swaddled lightly in the summer heat.
Catherine said at the time it would have been easy to dismiss his illness, as Riley didn’t have a whoop. But as he coughed more and more she grew concerned and decided to take him to a doctor just in case. The doctor diagnosed the cough as a cold and sent him home.
The next day Riley was coughing more and so Catherine and her husband, Greg took him to hospital.
Four days later their beautiful baby boy died a terrible, preventable death from whooping cough.
But Riley’s death, while devastating, has now not been in vain.
Since his death Riley’s parents, Catherine and Greg, have been passionately campaigning to bring awareness of the importance of the maternal pertussis vaccine in the third trimester of pregnancy.
As a direct result of his parents’s campaigning every Australian state and territory has now made free whooping cough booster shots available to all pregnant women, Riley has saved countless lives.
80% of whooping cough deaths occur in babies under three months of age and we know that women having a booster shot during their pregnancy provides their baby’s best defence against whooping cough.
In sharing the video, which she hopes will make more people aware of the importance of the vaccine, Catherine had this message:
These are the final videos of our beautiful son Riley who passed away from whooping cough on the 17th of March, 2015.
I have always kept these videos to myself, as it makes my blood run cold listening to my beautiful boy cough like that. But we are sharing this in the hopes that it will convince just one more pregnant Mum to protect their baby from this disease. I wish I had known about pregnancy vaccination when I was pregnant with Riley.
In the beginning, Riley didn’t have a “whoop” sound in his cough, but it certainly developed once he was in hospital. If your newborn baby has a cough, and is too young to be vaccinated, please get them checked out by a doctor! Early intervention CAN help.
I loved being Riley’s Mum for those four weeks. I wish it were longer. Please share to help ensure no more babies die from this disease, which I hope one day will be relegated to the history books.
Here is Catherine and Greg’s video:
Message like this need to be spread fast – in West Australia health officials are warning parents of an imminent outbreak of whooping cough. The WA Centre for Disease Control (CDC) told the ABC the rate of weekly whooping cough notifications had steadily increased over 2015 and the department fears another outbreak is due.
Dr Paul Effler from the Department of Health’s Communicable Disease Control Directorate said “We’re not saying the sky is falling.
“We’re seeing increased whooping cough activity and we want to make sure parents are aware of it, so they can make sure their kids are protected and so that pregnant women get vaccinated to protect that baby when they’re most vulnerable.”
Catherine, who is nominated for Australian of the Year told the ABC that something needed to be done to target “belief systems: undermining the vaccination effort.”
“I think greater education is needed in schools,” she said. “Losing Riley was the worst thing we’ve ever experienced, and it doesn’t need to happen,” Catherine said.
“Watching your baby gasp for breath and being told your baby isn’t going to make it, … it doesn’t need to happen.
“There is prevention available. [It was] not something that I was offered but now every woman in Australia has access to pregnancy vaccination, which means the babies are born fairly protected [from] the disease.”
For more information go to the Light for Riley Facebook page.