Advocate, nurse, hero: Mother of the YearPublished 8:47pm Saturday, May 11, 2013
“When you’re faced with a difficult situation, you do what you have to do to make the best of that.”
It’s a simple philosophy coming from a woman whose life is anything but simple. But the fortitude and resilience inherent in her words are what makes Ericka Mason not only the Washington Daily News’ Mother of the Year, but what makes her a hero in the eyes of friends and family.
“She’s amazing. She deserves this more than any woman I’ve ever known,” said Jennifer Lewis.
Lewis met Ericka when they worked together as nurses at Vidant Beaufort Hospital, but when Ericka left her job of three years, she and her coworkers remained close, the women eventually becoming part of a larger support network for the Mason family.
“She went from 12-hour shifts to 24-hour shifts,” Lewis said.
Ericka moved from a tough job to one even more challenging: providing care for her young son who was diagnosed with Leigh’s disease at 13 months, just months after Ericka’s own mother had lost her battle to cancer. The disease is rare: it’s an inherited disorder that usually affects infants, creating mutations to mitochondrial DNA that cause degradation of motor skills and, eventually, death.
Alex, at 3, is on life support — Ericka is Alex’s primary caregiver. She’s also wife to Randy Mason and Mom to 8-year-old Shane, a straight-A student at Bath Elementary School.
“She is our hero — but she would disagree,” said Susan Cordon, another former co-worker. “Through her daily life, she doesn’t ever complain about herself. She just does what she has to do.”
Before they got in-home nursing care, that meant Ericka and Randy took turns caring for Alex around the clock. Now, each day unfolds with getting Shane off to school in the mornings then returning home to line up Alex’s day, whether that’s purchasing supplies or taking him to appointments. During these daytime hours, while a home nurse watches Alex, Ericka tackles the administrative aspects of running the household and Alex’s illness, returns to pick Shane up from school, then takes over Alex’s care when the nurse leaves at 4 p.m. For the next six hours, she juggles supper, helping Shane with his homework and watching Alex, who has been ventilator-dependent since his pneumonia-based respiratory failure in January of 2012. At 10 p.m., another nurse arrives for the night shift.
Ericka’s husband, Randy, works a rotating shift as an equipment operator in the PotashCorp-Aurora mines — a job that provides good health care and the ability for Ericka to stay home. When he can pitch in to help, he does, and when asked what makes his wife of 10 years a good mother, his admiration is evident.
“I guess the fact that she deals with everything she deals with and still gets out of bed in the morning. … And not to mention putting up with me,” he laughed.
Many people had a hand in nominating Ericka for mother of year, but it was Shane and Alex’s “adopted grandparents,” neighbors Eula and Gene Paul Edwards, and one of Alex’s nurses, Jessica Hardison, who submitted the nomination for her tireless work as mom, as caregiver and as advocate for her patient, Alex.
For Shane, however, the reason why his mom is the best mom is a lot simpler: Saturday morning pancakes.