Family mark death of baby

AT six weeks old Mitchell Wyvill developed a rattle in his chest, three days later he was hospitalised with whooping cough... he never came home.

Instead his grief stricken family said goodbye to him in an intensive care unit at Brisbane’s Royal Children’s Hospital.

This week marks the 13th anniversary of his death, and while Kathy and David Wyvill can talk now without tears there is still a sense of sadness.

“There are no words to describe losing your child,” Mrs Wyvill said.

Yesterday the Warwick mother-of-five tried to find a way to explain the impact her son’s death had on her family and her staunch belief in the need for immunisation.

“Our little children are just too precious to risk; we need to do everything we can to protect them, especially from preventable diseases like whooping cough,” she said.

Last year three babies died from whooping cough in Australia and more than 19,000 cases of the respiratory infection were reported.

This year the infection rate has already hit a record 24,115 according to the National Notifiable Diseases Surveillance System.

The upward trend has experts like Queensland Public Health officer Dr Penny Hutchinson speaking out to encourage immunisation of children and re-immunisation of adults.

“Immunity from either vaccine or natural disease is not lifelong, so you can get whooping cough more than once,” Dr Hutchinson said.

“We encourage all adults to be re-immunised, especially those who have contact with young children.”

It is a message Mrs Wyvill supports.

“I understand there are conscientious objectors to immunisation,” she said.

“But I don’t think people realise how serious whooping cough is or that it can be fatal, especially to the very young.”

Her son Mitchell had been born a month prematurely in 1997, but the little infant quickly fitted into the Wyvill household with his three older siblings.

He was six weeks old when she noticed a rattle in his chest and he started to have trouble feeding.

The next day during a visit to a local doctor she was told Mitchell had colic, two days later he had stopped feeding altogether.

Anxious, she took him back to see a GP who was worried he had pneumonia and sent the infant through to Toowoomba.

A day later he was airlifted to a Brisbane intensive care unit.

“Mitchell was started on antibiotics for whooping cough as a precaution, before they even had the test results back, but it was too late,” Kathy said.

“What I didn’t know at the time was babies that young usually can’t cough; Mitchell never coughed, but he struggled to breathe.

“He had had his first vaccination a week earlier, but it wasn’t enough and chances are he was already infected.

“He died six days after he was admitted to hospital.”

Words can’t describe the devastation the Wyvills felt in the aftermath of Mitchell’s death.

Kathy knows it changed them all.

A year later she fell pregnant with her fifth child, and when her daughter was born she was more nervous than ever.

“I didn’t take her out anywhere until she was six months old and her immunisation was practically complete,” she explained. “For me it just wasn’t worth the risk.”

Today, 13 years after she buried her baby son, this Warwick mother still gets upset by the fact whooping cough is preventable.

“I know people out there make the conscious choice not to immunise; but I have seen this illness from a different perspective,” Kathy said.

“It is the saddest thing in the world to lose your baby to a disease we can vaccinate against.”

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