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Gravestone of seven week old baby banned from city cemetery - because it has pink writing

PUBLISHED: 08:55 23 December 2017 | UPDATED: 16:21 23 December 2017

Makayla MacAlpine. Picture: Peter MacAlpine

Makayla MacAlpine. Picture: Peter MacAlpine

Archant

The gravestone of a seven-week old baby girl who died of whooping cough has been banned from a city cemetery - because it has pink writing.

The children's section at Earlham Cemetery. Picture: Denise BradleyThe children's section at Earlham Cemetery. Picture: Denise Bradley

When Makayla MacAlpine was less than two months old, her parents were forced to make the heartbreaking decision to withdraw treatment.

She had contracted whooping cough - an extremely rare cause of death, as there is a national vaccination programme.

In 2015 only four deaths were recorded across the UK for whooping cough, as vaccinations are routinely administered during pregnancy.

Neither Makayla’s GP nor doctors at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH) had scheduled the vaccination or warned her parents about the disease.

Now, more than a year after her death, Norwich City Council has refused to allow Makayla’s gravestone - part funded by £1,200 of public donations - to be erected at the Earlham Road cemetery, because it is engraved in pink.

A council spokesman said: “We appreciate how important it is for families to have a fitting and personal memorial for their loved ones.

“To make sure the cemetery remains a tranquil place for all visitors, we ask that a neutral colour palette of white, black, gold or silver is used when engraving headstones.”

But dad Peter said: “It was supposed to be put on her grave before Christmas.

“It is just a colour. It is not a health and safety risk and it is not harming anyone.”

Makayla was born on June 22, 2016. In August, while on holiday at Haven Holiday Park, she developed a cough and her breathing became laboured.

Her mother was so concerned she rushed to Norwich and took her to the GP - who said she had a common cold. In the early hours of the morning the following Friday, she stopped breathing.

Mr MacAlpine performed CPR and she was taken straight to the James Paget University Hospital.

“They diagnosed her with whooping cough and had to put her on a ventilator,” said Mr MacAlpine.

“On the Saturday she got transferred to Addenbrooke’s and we stayed in accommodation there because her heart rate was dropping. When we went across to go see her the next day she was a completely different girl from when we first brought her over there.

“The consultant came and was saying Makayla was critically ill and she was not going to make it. We just burst out crying and I went to call the rest of the family. While I was on the phone they started CPR on her. They were doing all they could to keep her with us, but she went.

“They managed to bring her back again but we just couldn’t watch what they were doing to her. She was critically ill and we had to make the decision to let her go.”

She died on August 14, 2016, prompting internal investigations at the NNUH and a change of procedure.

They have changed the way they give out the vaccination now so it is done at the hospital as well as the GP surgery,” said Mr MacAlpine. “That helps new parents but it should have been done beforehand.

“Something like this you do not hear of that often and it should be made clear to new parents.”

The death has shaken the Mile Cross family and funeral costs were waived with the exception of the grave plot and headstone.

While Purfitt’s stone masons in North Walsham have been busy crafting the £1,800 headstone, Makayla’s grave has been marked by pink and black stones, a couple of ornaments and a plastic plaque.

But last Monday the masons were informed by the city council they would not be permitted to put the headstone at Earlham Road cemetery because it had pink on it.

The family had already been told to scrap a Disney logo from the design in October last year over copyright fears.

“We think if one cemetery can have that colour on a headstone surely our cemetery would allow it,” said Mr MacAlpine. “We thought we would just go with plain writing and a heart shape with a picture of Mikayla.

“The design is beautiful and it has all been finished now.”

Since August 2015 the lawn section for babies at Earlham Cemetery has had a number of restrictions around size, copyright, colours and font.

The council said headstones that appear elsewhere in the cemetery that don’t adhere to these guidelines were granted historically.

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