Jade Pamata and Simi Ma'anaima would have done things differently if they knew how serious whooping cough could be.
Their 6-week-old daughter, Alaya-Reign Pamata Ma'anaima, died in Christchurch Hospital on November 10 after being diagnosed with the disease nine days earlier.
Her parents had welcomed her home only three weeks before.
Pamata was diagnosed with a tumour in her stomach while she was pregnant with Alaya-Reign. The pregnancy was induced six weeks early to allow doctors to remove the 5 kilogram benign tumour as Alaya-Reign was born.
Mother and baby spent several weeks in hospital recovering before they were able to go home.
"We sort of thought that was the worst of it because we went through something so serious and we came through fine," Pamata said.
"It just hurts to have her taken away by something that was so unexpected.
"By the time I was actually starting to heal and feel better she got sick. I didn't really get to be a mother as much as I wanted to." Pamata took Alaya-Reign to a GP after noticing she had developed an odd cough. The doctor recommended taking her to Christchurch Hospital's emergency department.
"There are so many things to worry about when you've got a newborn," Pamata said. "I was worried about everything but whooping cough. I'd heard about whooping cough, but I didn't know every single detail of it."
The next day it was confirmed Alaya-Reign had the disease.
The baby's condition deteriorated over the next week and a team from Auckland's Starship children's hospital was brought to Christchurch twice. However, Alaya-Reign was too sick to travel back with the team for specialised treatment.
At 2pm on November 10, Alaya-Reign's extended family went to the hospital to "say their goodbyes" and the baby was disconnected from her breathing tube.
"She just made us better people. She was our first," Pamata said. "We loved showing her off to everyone. If I could do it over again, I would cut out the number of people who came into contact with Alaya." An outbreak of whooping cough has swept the country and shows no sign of abating.
The Canterbury District Health Board is offering free vaccinations to women in the 28th to 38th weeks of pregnancy until the outbreak ends.
- © Fairfax NZ News