Jadacey Wheeler has a big, bright smile. She laughs from her belly, inviting everyone with her to laugh along. Jadacey’s mother, Kelly, looks at her daughter with admiration, reflecting on the long, often difficult journey that they have traveled together. A journey that led them to Matthew’s House.
“Our whole life changed for the better the day we stepped foot into Matthew’s House,” she says. “I don’t know what kind of shape my daughter and I would be in if it wasn’t for this place.”
Their journey is one that was not always filled with smiles and laughter. It began in Alberta where Jadacey was born. Kelly was 26 years old and a first-time mom-to-be. She knew that she would be single parent from the beginning of her pregnancy but she has a very supportive family.
“My sister and my mom have been amazing,” she says.
As she reflects back on her pregnancy, Kelly wonders if there were signs that should have been addressed earlier, but because she had no prior experience, she trusted the medical advice she was given. Yet there was one episode in her third trimester that truly alarmed her.
“One day I woke up to my whole belly shaking and it lasted for nearly 30 seconds,” she remembers.
Instead of going to emergency, she called her doctor’s office and told them what had happened.
“I was put on hold while they discussed it with the doctor,” she says. “They told me to book an appointment.”
The doctor examined her and diagnosed muscle spasms. Looking back, they now think that Jadacey was having seizures invitro and it may have been where Jadacey’s complex care needs began.
Jadacey’s delivery, by caesarean section, took longer than usual. During their first few days in hospital, Kelly noticed that Jadacey often had trouble breathing or would choke when feeding, often turning blue in the face. When Kelly would panic and call the nursing staff repeatedly, she was told not to worry, that this was “normal.” Later it was discovered that Jadacey had been aspirating breast milk into her lungs. It wasn’t until months later, when her daughter had a full seizure that things changed drastically.
“The seizure terrified me. My sister and I took her to emergency (in Medicine Hat) where she was diagnosed with mini-seizures,” she remembers.
Jadacey remained in hospital in Medicine Hat for 3 weeks where medical staff tried but were unsuccessful in stopping the seizures. The decision was made to fly Jadacey to the Children’s Hospital in Calgary.
“There was no room for me on the flight, so I had to drive,” Kelly says. “When I got to the hospital, I was shocked to see my baby hooked up to tubes and monitors and IVs. It was awful.”
It took months of scans, blood tests, and invasive procedures for doctors and specialists to determine that Jadacey had severe epilepsy. Her seizures had already had a deep impact on her brain. One of the doctors told Kelly and Kelly’s mother that in many cases like Jadacey’s the child would not live past two. Her mother began to cry and Kelly teared up.
“But then that thought left me and I told my mom, ‘Mom, stop crying, she’s not going anywhere’,” Kelly says. It was never brought up again.
To her credit, Kelly tried to find a way to raise her daughter on her own. She moved back and forth between Alberta and BC, trying to access the resources she needed. She tried going back to work, having an aide take care of Jadacey. When her aide became unreliable, Kelly lost her job. Eventually, she moved back to BC and tried to make a go of it here but the toll of trying to provide the care that Jadacey needed was too much for them both.
“I became totally isolated and was absolutely exhausted,” she says. “I knew that something had to change.”
Social workers suggested that Jadacey go into foster care but Kelly refused, reasoning that Jadacey’s level of care would exhaust a couple just as it did her as a single parent. And then, someone recommended Matthew’s House.
“I’ll never forget that call,” Kelly says. “The thought of moving my daughter out of my home was the hardest thing I ever had to do. But when I went to Matthew’s House, I was amazed at how caring everyone was. We felt so welcome and I felt that my daughter was safe.”
Jadacey has been living at Matthew’s House since 2015 and Kelly says it has been the best thing for them both. Jadacey is thriving. She is able to use a cup with a straw and feeds herself some foods using a special spoon. Kelly credits staff for their impeccable home care and smiles when she thinks about how social Jadacey has become.
“She goes out more than I do,” Kelly says with a smile.
Today, Kelly continues to enjoy motherhood, having welcomed Jadacey’s two brothers into the world: Rylan Zomar, age 3 and Ryder Zomar, age 1 (pictured at top of page.) She visits Jadacey regularly and the boys see their sister often. Kelly is grateful that her children have already established a good relationship.
“Rylan likes to talk to her on the phone and when we visit he likes to make her laugh,” Kelly says.
As she talks, she places a hand on her daughter’s arm, and Jadacey gives her mom that big, beautiful smile. Kelly smiles back.
“I never imagined her living in such an amazing home like Matthew’s House,” Kelly says. “It’s been a long journey but I thank God for Matthew’s House every day.”