Riley Hughes, whooping cough: How my dying son changed me as a parent

"I still have flashbacks to that moment. The room, the layout, the faces of the people sitting in the room as those five little words were delivered."

8 ways to deal with grief after the death of a loved one

8 ways to deal with grief after the death of a loved one 00:21:43

Five words that change the utter fabric of who you are as a person.

Five words that are so horrifically powerful, they ultimately change the destiny of who you are as a person.

"Your son's going to die"

I still remember the first time I was told this. I'd been told countless times by both doctors and nurses alike about how serious and dire the situation was with my son.

"He's got a big fight on his hands." - Sure, and we're up for this.

"He may never be the same." - Understood, but he'll still be here.

"We've got a long road ahead." – And I'll never shy away from a challenge when it involves my children.

The sheer enormity of how much your world changes when your hope is extinguished is probably the most overwhelming feeling I've ever experienced.

It's the destruction of any optimism you may have held, the countless milestones that will get missed and the realisation that everything you cherish has been ripped away from you in one uttered sentence.

Image: Facebook/Dad Minus One.

Riley Hughes lost his battle with whooping cough at just one month old. Image: Facebook/Dad Minus One.

I still remember the moment I was told

The doctor obviously had more tact than to blurt out "Your son is going to die," and he approached us with a kind and calm demeanour. The outcome was still the same though and I recall the moment vividly.

I'm not a naïve man, and in my mind when a doctor schedules a meeting with you alone in a room with a counsellor, a group of nurses and offers religious support you generally have an inkling that it's not going to be a discussion about what we're doing on the weekend.

Still, nothing could prepare me for that moment.

As he told me that in his professional opinion my son wouldn't see out the day, it was almost cliché, like a movie scene where someone has all of their past life experiences come rushing at them.

Like I'd been smashed in the face with a brick, my mind tells me bluntly: "Your child is going to die."

Image: Facebook/Dad Minus One.

Greg and his wife, Catherine raise awareness for the importance of vaccinations with Riley's help. Image: Instagram/Dad Minus One.

Then in an instant it all starts hitting me

I'm cutting the cord.

I'm taking a million photos of him from every angle just trying to capture his beauty.

I'm holding him lovingly in my arms just thinking about how could I possibly have created something so perfect and wonderful and amazing.

I'm being gently woken from sleep by his snuffling in the bassinet.

I'm planning his future, his schooling, his sports and hobbies, his outfits.

I'm thinking about all the one-on-one 'man chats' we're going to have together as we try to escape the girls.

I'm watching his sister dote on him with a heart so filled with pride that she looks like she could burst.

I'm watching him cuddle into the crook of my wife's neck and see her cherish his new baby smell, his soft skin and his stunning little face.

And then I'm not.

Ever again.

Suddenly it's all extinguished with one sentence.

I'm never doing any of these things ever again.

Image: Instagram/Dad Minus One.

Image: Instagram/Dad Minus One.

I still have flashbacks to that moment

The room, the layout, the faces of the people sitting in the room as those five little words were delivered.

Then I'm alone.

It's like everyone in the room has vanished and I'm being swallowed whole by the floor beneath me.

I run. I can't think of anything else to do. I'm terrified, I'm heartbroken.

I still remember the layout of the corridor, the nurse who looked on at me terrified as I ran down that hallway. I remember the sterile smell of the toilet cubicle I entered as I sobbed uncontrollably into the basin, suddenly being acutely aware of the wave of nausea that had suddenly overcome my body.

I remember hating everything.

I remember not wanting to even be.

Why me?

More importantly, why HIM?

Why NOT me instead?

Why would something like this happen?

This was the moment my whole life changed.

This was the moment that my life crumbled before my eyes and I started the journey of rebuilding from catastrophe.

All with the destructive power of five little words.

-D-1

This post originally appeared on Dad Minus One and has been republished here with permission. You can follow Greg on or Instagram .