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WEDNESDAY WOMAN: Nothing like a mother’s love


RACHELLE AGARD, [email protected]

WEDNESDAY WOMAN: Nothing like a mother’s love

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ESTHER JOHNSON HOWARD can proudly point out that she gave birth to 16 children, 13 of whom are alive. One of them, Charmaine, has required constant attention above all others.

She is disabled, and for the past three decades, her primary caretaker has been Esther, who is 79.

Charmaine, 42, suffers from epileptic seizures. She does not walk or talk and must constantly be watched as her movements replicate those of a toddler.

There was a point, Esther acknowledged, when she considered putting her daughter into care.

“When Charmaine was about five years old, I wanted to send her to the almshouse, as I was working and needed her to get proper care, but one time I went there to visit my god-daughter and I didn’t like what I saw,” Esther said in an interview with the MIDWEEK NATION at her St Matthias home. “So I quit my job after a talking with my husband and have been home ever since.”

Esther Johnson-Howard lifting her daughter Charmaine onto the couch where she spends most of her day at their St Matthias home.

Esther Johnson-Howard1

Admitting that the journey has not always been an easy one, she said her husband eventually left the family home, but the other children have stepped up to assist with the care of their sick sister when necessary.

“Is just me who looks after Charmaine,” she said. “I have to make sure she eats, and gets her medication twice per day on time so she doesn’t have too many seizures. I myself have to make sure I take my meds on time because I am diabetic and hypertensive too, but by the grace of God we have gotten this far.

“One of her brothers Corey live here too and he is the one who bathes her and brings her downstairs for me. He would help wash her clothes and spend time with her to entertain her and keep her company. When he is not here, we sit in the front house and keep each other company.”

Asked if there was any stigma toward Charmaine as a disabled person, Esther said she was never the type to keep Charmaine hidden in the house, as was the norm with disabled people in the past.

“Everybody around here love Charmaine. If I have to run out to do something, I can be sure the neighbours would look after Charmaine for me. The youngsters around here and Corey does put her in the wheelchair and take her outside under the tree,” Esther said, smiling broadly.

One issue she had with taking care of Charmaine was in receiving benefits.

“One time I send somebody to collect pampers for Charmaine and they make a big hullabaloo about someone else coming to collect them, even though I called and they said it was fine,” Esther said. “So I stop going and I does buy them now for myself. Everything she needs I does get it for myself now.

“When she is sick, it can be a bit trying because then she doesn’t want to eat, and I have to find ways to trick her into eating, but otherwise it is not so hard. She is my child, and I will do what it takes to care for her.”

Esther is reassured that should anything happen to her, Charmaine would be in good hands.

“Charmaine has enough brothers and sisters to look after her. They usually come when I call them, so if I close my eyes today I know they will look after their sister. I only want the best care for my daughter. She can’t help herself so somebody has to help her, and for now that somebody is me,” she said.

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