A dad’s letter to the son he lost to whooping cough is a reminder of the importance of immunisation and a glimpse into the very sad times that follow the loss of a child.
“I miss him terribly”
Tiny WA baby Riley Hughes was just 32 days old when he died, after contracting whooping cough in March of 2015.
Whooping cough is a serious bacterial infection, characterised by an uncontrollable cough and an accompanying “whooping” sound. Whooping cough prevents breathing and sleeping, and causes vomiting. Also known as pertussis, this infection claims the lives of 1 in 200 Australian babies. Complications range from convulsions, brain damage and bleeding, through to death.
Riley’s dad Greg was rummaging through a box of photos and keepsakes recently when he came across the letter he’d written to Riley. He’d previously read it out at Riley’s funeral, but he wanted to share it with the community in the hopes that it will encourage people to stay up to date with their vaccinations.
“I was looking through his box of memories I have and just having a bit of a down day,” Greg told Yahoo7. “I felt like sharing a photo of him because I miss him terribly and sometimes I just want to acknowledge that he’s still such an important part of my life.”
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Sharing the understandably emotional letter on his Dad Minus One Facebook page, Greg noted it contained “no profound wisdom from me and no wisecracks – just a post to share what I wrote and an excuse to publish a photo of his face because I miss him.”
“Life was perfect. Our family of four was complete. And then … you were gone,” Greg wrote. “I stand here completely bereft of words suitable to convey the enormity of loss I’m currently experiencing. I’m devastated, angry, heartbroken, empty, lost, confused, bewildered. My world has been thrown into chaos.”
“But somehow, as you always seemed to do whenever I’m feeling down, you’ve helped me find solace. The name Riley means courageous or valiant, and in 32 days you’ve achieved more than I ever could have dreamt to achieve in 32 lifetimes.”
You can read the full text of Greg’s letter to Riley here.
Read more about immunisation:
- This pro-vaccination poster is challenging anti-vaxxers, but is it helpful?
- What you need to know before you get your child the flu vaccination
- Immunisation for children – sorting the facts from the fiction
Greg and his wife, Catherine are also parents to daughter Olivia (who was 3 when her baby brother Riley died.) Two years ago, the family welcomed another daughter named Lucy, and Greg says Olivia’s been teaching her all about the brother she never got to meet.
“Just the other day I found myself in a panic at the sheer quiet that was happening and went running down the other end of the house,” Greg wrote on Facebook. “As I approached I slowed down and eavesdropped on the conversation as I discovered my oldest had dug up her ‘Riley’ box and was showing her sister photos. Listening in on her conversation was like listening to a 6-year-old mother having a conversation with her child.
“He’s your brother Lucy, he loves you in heaven. He wishes he could be with us but he can’t because he’s dead. He was so cute. Can you say, Riley? Riiiiley?”
The family are tracking their lives on the Light For Riley Facebook page and raising awareness about the importance of immunisation.
Find out more about keeping your family safe from preventable infections and diseases at the government’s immunisation website.
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