Riley Hughes was just 32-days old when he died from vaccine-preventable disease whooping cough.
What started as a common cold ended with Riley dying in mum Catherine’s arms on March 16, 2005.
Now the devastated family is sharing their gut-wrenching story to raise awareness of the deadly disease and in particular for the whooping cough immunisation availabe to pregnant women for free in every state and territory in the country.
She remembers every detail of that night. In fact, she remembers every detail of Riley’s 32-days on this earth.
“He was our second child and we were so delighted to have him in our family,” Catherine Hughes writes on immunisation advocacy page Light for Riley, started by the family after his death.
“At three weeks of age, he started displaying mild, cold-like symptoms, and developed an occasional cough. We called out a doctor, who assured us he was fine. However instincts took over, and after a night where he slept a lot and barely woke for his usual two-hourly breastfeed, we knew something was wrong.
“We took him straight to our local children’s hopsital, Princess Margaret Hospital in Perth, Western Australia.”
Catherine did everything right. She loved and cared for Riley each and every day. She trusted her insticts. The family diligently complied with the Australian vaccination schedule.
After four days in hospital, doctors told the family Riley was going to die.
“When the doctor gently told us that Riley was likely not going to make it, I felt like someone had reached into my chest and gripped my heart tightly, squeezing it. My stomach felt like it was filled with rocks and my hands started to shake.
Riley with his big sister shortly before his death. Image: Facebook @lightforriley
“My immediate reaction was to challenge and ask questions about options, like this was something I could negotiate my way out of. Could we not simply just replace his lungs? OK so his heart was struggling too, what about a heart transplant? I wanted so badly to figure it out, to brainstorm a way out of this nightmare that we had fallen into, but there was no escape.
The shocked mum wanted to leave her baby on life support forever.
Riley’s mum Catherine is sharing her story to raise awareness about vaccinations. Image: Facebook @lightforriley