A devoted son’s cry for help
In 2009, Wayne Anthony Reid gave up life as he knew it so he could provide ‘round-the-clock care for his ailing mother, Elmena O’Conner.
Driven by love for the woman who had sacrificed much to ensure he got ahead in life, he ditched the taxi business he was engaged in and relocated his mother from Spanish Town, St Catherine, to stay with him in his one-room board dwelling in Crofts Hill, Clarendon.
A father of one son and in a relationship, the move was too much for his partner to handle.
Life has got harder as he now has to “juggle” to put a meal on the table, as a full-time job away from the community would mean he could not be close to his mother, who has been diagnosed with angina – a chest pain caused by reduced blood flow to the heart, which could also be symptomatic of coronary artery disease.
The Crofts Hill Seventh-day Adventist Church has assisted the family to ease the cramped space in which they lived by constructing a one-bedroom house for O’Conner.
Although the dwelling can be occupied, the bathroom has not yet been completed. Only a section of it has been rendered and there are other finishing touches to be done.
“The church cannot do no more,” Reid told the Gleaner team which visited him on the weekend.
Breaking into tears, Reid shared that the past two years and four months since he has been taking care of his mother have been challenging.
“The difficult part is I have to stay and wash, cook and do everything for her so I can’t get a chance to go work ‘cause everyone has their own thing doing. It’s hard; I’m not working and I have to keep finding meals for her,” he said.
Although it’s a sacrifice he willingly made, the fact that he cannot leave the community to seek a job is restricting his earning potential.
His room, which is metres away from his mother’s, is rotting away and he has no resources to repair it.
His sole means of preparing meals is a one-burner hot plate as the two-burner gas stove has outlived its usefulness.
Almost at breaking point, he shared that prior to our visit, he could not prepare a meal because of a power cut. He reached out to a neighbour for assistance with some coal, but it got wet. Thankfully, the power returned, enabling him to fix breakfast.
“I have to get up every night and wonder where I’m gonna find it tomorrow for mom, and I have a son, too. I hustle with some people looking for stones on the hills,” he disclosed.
Before going to hustle, Reid, who rises at 6 in the morning, prepares breakfast and lunch for O’Conner, then “go to the hills”.
In the evenings, he sometimes leaves early to return home out of anxiety to care for her.
There are days when someone treats him to lunch and a drink, and he makes sure to take something that his mother would enjoy to give it to her instead.
BROKE DOWN IN TEARS
Both mother and son broke down in tears as Reid recalled one night when she fell ill and they had to take four taxis to the May Pen Hospital – the closest medical facility to them – but she was not admitted.
“I had to put my mother on a pharmacy bench to sleep. She had diarrhoea and mess up herself. I had to clean up the area and lift her, put her back in four taxis to come back home,” he said,
There are days when the responsibilities overwhelm Reid and he questions whether it is worth waking up to continue the routine.
With medical expenses, including prescriptions to fill, amounting to more than $30,000, Reid sometimes has to borrow cash. One set of the medication – tablets she has to put under her tongue – costs more than $16,000 and she had only six pills remaining.
“After two years and four months just stuck one place, cannot move, cannot gain, cannot get nothing, I have to give up so much, but I am happy I am here with her. She is still alive, but sometime mi just feel like seh mi wouldn’t bother wake up to how mi affi live,” he said.
For him to get a better job, someone would be needed to assist his mother, but with no bathroom facilities and the condition of the house, he can’t think about that just yet.
His mother sleeps in a couch as she was given a double mattress, which is placed over the single frame, which sees her unable to roll on the bed.
With tears in her eyes, O’Conner declared her son was “good, good to me”.
“I don’t miss a girl. Him stand tall with me,” she said.
Toshane Young, Clarendon parish organiser for senior citizens, told The Gleaner that the family’s case had been referred by a social worker attached to the Programme of Advancement Through Health and Education (PATH).
Young said that the senior – and by extension, her son – benefited from National Council for Senior Citizens food packages as well as care items and a mattress.
“Admission to the PATH programme has proven to be a challenge because of a lack of documents. My heart broke at the reality of the state of the house and the constant struggle to afford basic items for survival,” she added.
Reid admits that his mother’s documents were lost when she fell ill while living in Spanish Town.