They lost their newborn to whooping cough...
""I'd cried more tears in that room than I had in my previous 29 years to that point. I felt this soul crushing urge to just pick him up and hold him one more time." Read this heartbreaking story and find out what little Riley's parents' messages to other mums and dads are.
In March this year in Australia, a tiny life was snuffed out, just like that, when little Riley Hughes died from pneumonia, caused by whooping cough. He was only four weeks old.
The baby's mum Cath Hughes shared her grief via the Facebook page 'Light for Riley', in relation to her son's last few hours in this world:
"Greg [her husband] says it’s a good thing I wasn’t there for his last conscious hours. He was screaming and screaming as they got him ready for life support, I don’t know all the fine details, but I know he hadn’t had any milk in a long time, and that he would have been in a lot of pain from the needles and cannulas they were administering.
"Greg’s last memory of Riley conscious is of him screaming and distraught. That’s how my baby will last remember the world."
As Riley was placed in his mother's arms on the afternoon of 17 March 2015, he took his last breath, leaving his parents heartbroken:
"Riley was placed in my arms, and I was shocked at how burning hot and swollen his tiny body was. Greg crouched next to me, holding Riley’s hands.
"The tubes were slowly and carefully removed, and we cuddled, cried, kissed him, and sang to him a lullaby as the life slowly drained out of him. At 2pm, our beautiful 32 day old baby left us, left this world, and left us devastated and heartbroken."
More recently, Riley's dad Greg also spoke up about his own experience of losing his baby.
"I'd cried more tears in that room than I had in my previous 29 years to that point. I felt this soul crushing urge to just pick him up and hold him one more time.
"Little did I know that the next time I'd hold him would be as his life support was being turned off."
Both Cath and Greg have two very important messages for all parents. Keep reading on the next page.
Messages from heartbroken parents
Cath's message is clear. She says if she had been offered a whooping cough booster while she was pregnant, Riley may still have been alive today.
But it's not just mums who need to be aware about keeping their vaccinations up to date -- anybody who comes in close contact with a newborn needs to, as well.
Parents, remember Cath's words:
"Childhood vaccination does not begin when the child is six weeks. It now begins when the mother is pregnant. Please don’t forget to have your pregnancy vaccinations and protect your baby from this terrible disease."
Meanwhile, Greg's message is for all dads who might have experienced loss in their lives. He says:
"I always viewed myself as the protector of the family, the provider and the one who would always put himself at the forefront of any negativity, danger or ill will that would fly in the face of my family.
"In this very moment I remember the one thing that crossed my mind was that I was an abject failure. I'd failed my boy, I'd failed his mum and I'd failed his sister."
The heartbroken dad says he suppressed his feelings and emotions for almost a month after little Riley died, but then had a "mini meltdown", crying for almost four hours straight. He did seek help and was prescribed anti-depressants for some time.
But his heartfelt request to other dads is this:
"I'm sharing this in the hope that if there's any guys out there who are in a similar position right now and don't really know where to turn - speak up. You're not weak if you choose to get help. It's not weak to cry about your loss and you're not a failure because you were one of the horribly unlucky parents who lost a child.
"Look after yourself and remember It's a club that no loving parent chooses to be a part of - Sadly it's one that you can never hand back the membership to."
Our heart is breaking for this family's loss. But at the same time, what happened to little Riley is yet another reminder about how fragile newborns are and how we, as adults, need to take adequate precautions when around them.
If you are hesitant about vaccinating yourself or your children, why not talk to a health professional about it?
What are your thoughts on this story? Do share them in a comment below.