Catherine Hughes and her family have been fighting for vaccine awareness since their baby boy, Riley, passed away in March 2015 from whooping cough at just 32 days old.

Catherine shared a recent post on Facebook of the last moments with her baby boy.


This is the moment my heart broke.

This is the moment I realised you were unlikely to make it.

This is the moment my life turned upside down

This is the moment I wanted to throw up in fear

This is the moment where I just didn’t want to let go of your hand

This is the moment I learned just how much I loved you.

In another post just last week Catherine asked, “What goes on in the thoughts of a parent who has just learned their baby won’t make it?”

“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.

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. There were no options left that would work.

I thought of the irony. I thought of the conversations we’d had about the odds being slim of dying from whooping cough. I thought of our discussion when we saw brochures about grief and loss in the hospital and how we thought it was irrelevant to us. I thought of the fact that we’d done the right thing and vaccinated ourselves just a couple of years earlier and had always been supportive of vaccination. I thought of the story of beautiful Dana McCaffery, who’s brochure we received in hospital, and how I’d believed that her tragic story wouldn’t happen to us. But it did.

I thought about irrational and strange things. I thought about my relationship with my husband and how we would cope with this. I thought of all the money we’d spent on a pram and what a waste it was. I thought about whether we could just leave him on life support forever.

I felt angry. I was angry at the visiting doctor who’d told me Riley was perfectly healthy. I was angry at myself, for thinking that breastfeeding meant my baby would be fine. I was angry at this bacteria, an enemy that I couldn’t see, that had destroyed my son’s body. I was angry at every single God/Higher being that I had desperately bargained with and pleaded with.

I felt shocked. Shocked that I wouldn’t be taking home my baby. Shocked that I would never look into his beautiful blue eyes ever again. Shocked that our family of four was about to become a family of three again. Shocked that whooping cough, a vaccine-preventable disease, still killed children in this day and age.

More than anything, I felt broken.

Whooping cough had destroyed my son’s life and I thought his death would destroy mine. And despite the immense pain, the tears, the heartbreak and the scrutiny, it hasn’t. I still have bad hours, and bad days, but I know that it’s important to appreciate that fact that I am still alive. Riley didn’t get his chance at a good life, and I will not waste mine.”

It truly breaks your heart to think of the devastation this family live with every day.

Catherine recently shared 10 things parents who don’t vaccinate need to know – Read that article here

Share your comments below.

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  • wow this is truly sad and heartbreaking and i feel so sorry for this family


  • I can only imagine the depth of their pain. I’m not taking my newborn anywhere until she’s had her 6week vaccs!!


  • And she has gone on to show so much courage with her advocacy.


  • So heartbreaking to lose your little one this way. I can understand her passion for this cause and hope that many will be impacted by their story.


  • I cannot imagine how hard it would have been to watch Riley suffer. I hope no other children will have to suffer as a result of the stance taken by anti-vaxxers.


  • Really heartbreaking. I can’t even imagine having to let go your little child.
    And I get so upset when I read posts of people that fight against vaccinations.


  • wow Catherine is such a strong lady, with loosing Riley so early and then continuing to fight to prevent this from happening to more babies is courageous and inspiring – proud to be on her side as a proud mum who vaccinates


  • Catherine continues to be so brave in her campaign to warn people of the dangers of babies no being vaccinated against Whooping Cough. He little angel, Riley was too young to be vaccinated so he caught the disease from somebody who hadn’t been vaccinated. Sadly he most likely is not the only baby who has caught and succumbed to Whooping Cough. Catherine is continuing to campaign to encourage other parents to protect their babies from the same distressing unnecessary fate.


  • So sad. No parent should lose their child like this (or any way for that matter).


  • I respect anyone that turns their grief towards a cause that is important for the community.


  • Bless this family, their loss and pain is huge.


  • They have shown so much courage by continuing to fight anti vaxxers.


  • My heart continues to break every time I read about this family.


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