Parents share heartbreaking video of baby they lost to preventable illness

Jan 13, 2016 at 4:23 p.m. ET

In a tribute to their late son, Riley, Catherine and Greg Hughes of Western Australia shared a heartbreaking video highlighting the devastating effects that whooping cough had on him. It's difficult to watch as Riley struggles to catch his breath while coughing, but his parents have a very important message that they want all of us to hear.

In March of 2015, when Riley was only 32 days old, he passed away due to the effects of whooping cough (pertussis). The video the couple shared on their Facebook page, "Light for Riley," has been viewed hundreds of thousands of times, and has shined a very informative spotlight on a largely debated topic: vaccinations.

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Riley's parents shared their heartbreaking video in the hopes that it would encourage even just one more mother to consider getting the whooping cough vaccine while pregnant. The CDC suggests that pregnant women should receive the Tdap vaccine (the one recommended for children and adults over the age of 11) some time during their third trimester. This vaccine helps to safeguard newborns from an illness that can be incredibly lethal to their undeveloped immune systems.


In recent years, celebrities such as Jenny McCarthy have taken on roles in the anti-vaccination movement, and the 2014 measles outbreak in California garnered many outspoken opinions from advocates on both sides of the debate. To vaccinate or not to vaccinate? That seems to be the question on so many parents' minds as they attempt to seek proper care for the children.

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It's evident that the majority of physicians are strong supporters of having children vaccinated. From polio, to pneumonia, to measles, to whooping cough — all of these diseases are so easily preventable by administering vaccines that are more than capable of protecting a child from acquiring them. The measles outbreak in Disneyland is a prime example of how quickly such contagious diseases can spread. And though most are fairly treatable, the consequences of contracting something like whooping cough clearly pose a life-threatening risk.

As so many physicians have made us aware, the risks of vaccinations are, if anything, microscopic. Yet, so many parents allow the fear of the unknown to navigate their decision-making when it comes to the safety of their children. The anxiety is understandable though — no one wants any harm to fall upon their children, but the rewards of having them vaccinated far outweigh any minimal risk associated with them.

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Catherine and Greg Hughes were unfortunately unaware that a whooping cough vaccination existed for pregnant women. Since posting their video it has been shared thousands upon thousands of times. By sharing their story, they're playing a vital role in bringing awareness to something that could save lives. They may not have known about the life-saving benefits of this vaccination, but they have made it their mission to make sure that other expectant parents do.