HER RIGHT: Dana McCaffery died from whooping cough.
HER RIGHT: Dana McCaffery died from whooping cough. Contributed

Vax tragedy: Baby Dana's death leaves a legacy

FIVE days.

That's how quickly whooping cough took the life of baby Dana after she was admitted into Lismore Base Hospital in 2009.

Lennox Head parents Toni and David McCaffery had agonised over the newborn for a number of weeks earlier, as she first showed innocuous signs of the bacterial infection.

Dana had malaise, runny nose and cold-like symptoms, all without the hallmark 'whoop' cough noise, from 11 days old.

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The symptoms were dismissed as flu four times before a proper test returned a positive for whooping cough.

"We were instructed to go straight to hospital and minutes after arriving Dana had her first coughing fit and stopped breathing in my arms and in five days time she died," Mrs McCaffery said.

"My daughter would cough for up to two minutes until she passed out.

baby Dana with her brother.
baby Dana with her brother. Contributed

"Then she'd recover and she'd do it again and again.

"I watched my tiny daughter's body wrapped in pain and there was nothing I could do, and that's what happens to all babies with whooping cough.

"We watched our daughter die a very cruel and agonising death at four weeks old."

Dana was too young to get her booster, so lacked a protective barrier that vaccination provides.

The only way for her to have had protection was if her mother had a booster shot when pregnant.

Toni McCaffery when Dana was born.
Toni McCaffery when Dana was born. Contributed

"Unbeknownst to us, our area had was amid an incredible whoop epidemic," Mr McCaffery said.

"There had been 7000 notification of whooping cough in our region at that time - four times higher than anywhere else in NSW.

"One baby was airlifted from intensive care the day before we arrived.

"We also found out adults needed vaccination booster.

Toni McCaffery with baby Dana, just she passed away from a whooping cough infection.
Toni McCaffery with baby Dana, just she passed away from a whooping cough infection. Contributed

"But we never got a warning."

Dana's death triggered a NSW Health review, with a free booster shot for pregnant mothers just one measure to help provide protection for young babies in the first few weeks of life.

Mrs McCaffery met with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in Sydney on Friday, on the anniversary week of Dana's death, to share her story and to hear about Mr Turnbull's new New Jab, No Play policy.

"My husband and I sat by our daughter's grave and decided we wanted to do something to fix all the problems to show her how much we love her.

David and Toni McCaffery with their children, James, Aislingand Sarah.
David and Toni McCaffery with their children, James, Aislingand Sarah. Contributed

"I was very raw and so I spoke from the heart (to Turnbull)."

The McCafferys support No Jab, No Play - which prevents unimmunised children from attending daycare - because Dana may have caught whooping cough when Ms McCaffery was dropping a younger child at childcare.

The day after Dana's death, six notifications for whooping cough were made at the centre.

David and Toni McCaffery with their children, James, Aislingand Sarah.
David and Toni McCaffery with their children, James, Aislingand Sarah. Contributed

"It's tough love, but No Jab, No Pay is working, with over 200,000 caught up on their vaccinations," Mrs McCaffery said.

"This is about protecting that tiny baby and looking after the rights of people to be able to drop their kids of at childcare and feel safe."

Northern NSW has one of the lowest vaccination rates of any regional area in the country.

 

Baby Dana
Baby Dana Contributed


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