A loving daughter’s decision to take on her dying mother’s kids
She arrived at the hospital knowing it was time to say goodbye to her mother forever.
Family members surrounded the bed as they took turns to cuddle and kiss the bedridden woman one last time.
Kaela Johnstone knew her turn was coming but she wasn’t sure what she’d tell her mother, Rachelle.
“It just all felt so wrong,” she says. “We hadn’t had enough time with her.”
But as she bent down to hug her frail mother, she suddenly knew exactly what to tell her.
She leaned over and whispered in her ear: “Don’t suffer anymore, Mum. Just go. I’ll take care of everything. I love you.”
It’s a promise she’s kept ever since her mom’s death in November last year.
The 27-year-old accountancy student vowed she’d take care of her two younger half-brothers and that’s exactly what she’s devoted her time to.
“We were all broken when we lost Mum but I’d made a promise that I would take care of everything and I was determined to follow that through. I couldn’t let her down.”
Rachelle’s health problems surfaced in July 2017, which was when Kaela noticed her mother was looking pale.
One day the 47-year-old went off to make herself a sandwich but suddenly went quiet in the house.
“I went to find her and she was in the bathroom unable to move or respond,” said Kaela, who lives in Townhead in Lanarkshire, Scotland.
Kaela left her two daughters, Jennifer (now 9) and Jasmine (7), and half-brothers Kalvin (7) and Kaiden (6) with a neighbour while she took her mother to University Hospital Monklands.
Doctors couldn’t identify what was wrong and four days later Rachelle was transferred to University Hospital Hairmyres in nearby East Kilbride.
But five days later Rachelle suffered a heart attack and her heart stopped beating.
“The doctor told me I needed to come in to say goodbye and my thoughts immediately turned to Kalvin and Kaiden.”
Miraculously, Rachelle survived and was moved to Golden Jubilee National Hospital in Clydebank, near Glasgow, for specialist care.
“She needed a heart transplant and surgeons installed a pump in the organ to keep her alive while she waited for a donor.
“The doctors were incredible. They refused to give up on Mum and when she came round after the operation to fit the pump, she said to me, ‘I’m not going anywhere, don’t worry.’
“I smiled as I squeezed her hand. Mum was my best friend. At the time, I didn’t know what I’d do if we lost her.”
In the weeks that followed Kaela regularly took Kalvin and Kaiden to visit Rachelle.
“Mum was desperately ill waiting for a new heart but I wanted to keep things as normal as possible for the kids. On a good day, we’d all cuddle up on her hospital bed and laugh and joke together. It was almost as if we were at home.”
Her mother was getting stronger and would sometimes even walk around.
“Things seemed to be looking up and I thought that once a donor heart became available, we’d have our mum back.”
But then last November Rachelle’s health deteriorated when she suffered bleeding on the brain.
“When I arrived at the hospital that morning, I found Mum curled up on her bed, sobbing.”
She had suffered from a headache for a few days and it was getting worse.
“She told me to take the boys to school. She didn’t want me to see her in such a bad way. She was thinking of others, even then.
“I did the school run but later that afternoon the hospital called to say Mum had hours left to live. It felt as if my entire world was crumbling around me but I had to try to pull myself together for the sake of the kids.”
Kaela made her way to the hospital to say goodbye to her mother and promised her the boys were in good hands.
“Saying goodbye was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do but I didn’t want her to be in pain any more. I had to step up and be the strong one.”
She sat Kalvin and Kaiden down and told them about their mother’s death. She also explained to the boys that she’d take care of them.
“It didn’t cross my mind not to keep Kalvin and Kaiden with me,” Kaela, who has support from her ex-partner, David Fleming (29), says.
“Until we held the funeral 11 days later it felt almost as if it hadn’t happened.”
Kaela is now in the process of officially adopting her brothers, who live with her and her daughters in their three-bedroom home.
“I’m doing the best I can and wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s what Mum would have wanted.”
Sources: Magazine Features