Mum’s heartbreaking whooping cough warning

Mum shares video of baby's fatal cough to warn others


Warning – this story contains content that is distressing


A mum whose baby died last year has shared a powerful video of the deadly whooping cough that tragically killed him.

Riley was just 4 weeks old when he died on 17 March. Pictured above, he had just been admitted to hospital with a cough – but 3 days later, the toxins from the disease had destroyed his lungs and heart.

Riley’s mum Catherine Hughes, from Western Australia, is now campaigning for awareness of the whooping cough vaccine in the third trimester of pregnancy that protects newborns from the deadly bacterial infection.

She’s shared a video of Riley coughing “in the hopes that it will convince just one more pregnant mum to protect their baby from this disease”.

Whooping cough, also known as pertussis, is an acute respiratory infection. It usually begins with mild, cold-like symptoms that develop over 1 to 2 weeks into severe coughing fits.

Whooping cough can be fatal – particularly in young babies before they are protected by their first dose of vaccine at 2 months.


She wishes bitterly that she’d known about the vaccine – that’s available between 28 and 38 weeks pregnant – and is hoping to make other pregnant women aware.

“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,” she wrote on Facebook, sharing the video.

The cough that killed Riley Hughes

*Warning – contains content that some may find distressing*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.- Riley’s Mum x

Posted by Light for Riley on Wednesday, 6 January 2016

The family has also shared a picture of his dad Greg saying goodbye to his son. “I’d cried more tears in that room than I had in my previous 29 years to that point,” he wrote on Facebook.

“If I could’ve swapped places with him in the bed and given him a second chance I would’ve done it in a heartbeat.”


And heartbreakingly, Riley’s older sister is also struggling to come to terms with the loss.

“I think it took several months for her to really understand he was gone forever,” Catherine shared.

“Then, the crying started. She would wake up in the middle of the night, sobbing about ‘her baby’. She would take his picture off the shelf and put it in bed with her.

She would cry and cry and say she wanted Riley back at home with us, that he didn’t like heaven and that he wanted to come home.”

Whooping cough vaccinations in the UK

Here in the UK you will be offered the vaccination at a routine antenatal appointment when you’re between 28 and 38 weeks pregnant, according to the NHS.

If you’re not offered one then talk to your midwife or doctor about scheduling one in.

Once your baby is born they will be vaccinated – but not until they get their 5-in-1 vaccine at 2 months. So to make sure they’re covered for the first 2 months of their life, you’ll need to be vaccinated during pregnancy.

From March 2014 to March 2015 only 56.4% of women took up the vaccine – and Public Health are campaigning for more uptake.

Commenting, Louise Silverton, director for midwifery for the Royal College of Midwives, said: “This has our support and we echo this appeal for pregnant women to have this vaccine during pregnancy.

Whooping cough can have fatal consequences for a child and they are particularly vulnerable in the first 2 months of life, when they are effectively unprotected against this disease until they have their first vaccination at 2 months.

“Women must also be aware of the importance of having the seasonal flu vaccination as soon as they become pregnant. If any pregnant woman is unsure about either of these vaccines, I would urge them to speak to their midwife or doctor to discuss the issue.”

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