Catherine Hughes and her husband Greg welcomed their second child, son Riley, on February 2015. Only 32 days later little Riley was dead.
At about 3 weeks old Riley began coughing, and Catherine and Greg, after correctly assuming that Riley had more than just a common cold, brought him to the hospital.
“At three weeks of age, he started displaying mild cold-like symptoms, and developed an occasional cough. We called out a locum, 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 wasn’t right. We took him straight to our local children’s hospital, Princess Margaret Hospital in Perth, Western Australia.”
It was after a few days stay in the hospital that the Hughes’s were told that Riley had contracted pertussis, more commonly known as Whooping Cough.
“On the 4th day of his hospital stay, he was taken to PICU with pneumonia, and his swab tests confirmed he did indeed have whooping cough. He grew steadily worse and worse, and despite all the best medical intervention, Riley passed away in our arms the next afternoon, at just 32 days old.”
After Riley’s death his mother began to realize that there were women in some parts of the world who received the whooping cough vaccine in their 3rd trimester. Since babies don’t normally get the vaccine until they’re 2 months old, vaccinating the mom while she’s pregnant helps pass some of the antibodies down to the newborn.
“While Riley was dying in hospital, we discovered that women in the UK, USA, Belgium and New Zealand were being recommended a whooping cough vaccine in their third trimester. This vaccine, usually given between 28-32 weeks gestation, provides the unborn baby with the necessary antibodies to protect them from this terrible disease. Since the introduction of this pregnancy vaccine, the UK has seen a reduction in infant deaths from pertussis by over 90%.”