A family shares their experience when their baby daughter contracted whooping cough (or pertussis), a highly contagious respiratory infection which can be dangerous to babies under six months old.
DI: Tori caught it off either my nephew or my son who both live at home with me. My nephew was sitting next to a girl in class that had whooping cough and we were told that he got it although he was immunised because his immunisation had worn off.
JASON: The noise she made was the worst sound, just trying to get breath. Di said "that’s it" and I think driving to the hospital was the longest drive, even though it’s about twenty minutes away.
DI: She was put on CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure), which is a breathing machine to make her breathe. Eventually they told us that they had to get the drip in (the IV in) because they may have to put her on life support.
She’s what? She’s going on life support for what? We didn’t understand this and I think that’s the worst. Being sent away knowing that I’d taken her to the doctors, I’d taken her the hospital and I was going to refuse to leave, and - all of a sudden she’s on CPAP with a machine pushed up her nose to make her breathe... and then the next step is life support. And what could we do? - Nothing.
When they told us that they may have to put her on life support (pauses)... (addresses Jason)..We took her for a cough, Jay. We had no idea it would get to that extent.
JASON: I said to Di, I really don't want to leave until she stops going blue, because at least if she turns blue at the hospital we’ve got the care, we’ve got the machines and all that to help her. Here [home] we are twenty minutes from a hospital. Twenty minutes can be the difference between life and death.
You as a parent want to protect your child and you couldn’t. You had to leave it in the faith of the doctors. And when more and more doctors came into it, it really was at the stage where we really didn’t know whether she would survive or not.
You take for granted - that a child’s born and then she’ll be fine, but as quick as they can come, they can be taken away.
Bringing her home that day, bringing her home finally, after that very traumatic period - that was probably the best moment of my life.
DI: I think when she smiled. Because when she was in the hospital and it wasn’t far away from coming home, that was her first smile of her life. And to me, there was some hope there with that smile.
JASON: I've now found an awareness of whooping cough, which I didn’t realise before how serious it is. And Di starting this [facebook support] group and her push to make people aware of it [whooping cough] has really been good.
DI: I can talk about it as much as I can; as much as anybody will listen. And maybe, just maybe, there will be one mum that hears Tori’s story, and that’s a plus, that’s a gain. If one mum gets her child vaccinated from this and she doesn’t have to sit in a hospital helpless, watching her child die; that’s a gain. And that’s what I’ve gained from it [this experience]. I now know why we get our children vaccinated and now, I can spread the word to make other mums know why, not just me.
DI: It doesn’t matter whether you're a parent or not, you can catch it. You can pass it on to your neighbour; somebody at school; where you work. They could have a baby at home. If they have a baby that is unimmunised and too young to be immunised, they will be fighting for their life.
Most of these babies that are getting it [whooping cough] are too young to be immunised and it’s people that [sic] aren’t immunised that [sic] are giving these unimmunised babies these preventable diseases.
JASON: We were lucky. Other parent’s weren't.