Nfld. & Labrador

Moreton's Harbour woman stuck in Yellowknife with dying wish to return home

A Newfoundland woman is doing all she can to fulfil her mother's last wish — to die in her home province.

Private medevac flight could cost $60,000

Cathy Jennings wants to come back to Newfoundland so she can live out her final few days with her family close. (Alicia McLaughlin/Facebook)

Alicia McLaughlin is preparing to say goodbye to her mother for the last time on Wednesday, before leaving her behind in Canada's North.

As it stands right now, Cathy Jennings, 56, will die in Yellowknife some time in the next few weeks, with only her husband by her side.

She will take her last breath a long way from the saltwater scent of her home in Moreton's Harbour, N.L., unless her family can rally enough funds for a 4,000-kilometre private medevac flight.

"She wants to go back to Newfoundland," McLaughlin said. "That's where she wants to die. We're just trying to honour her wishes and raise some money to get her back."

The family has launched a GoFundMe campaign called "Bring Cathy Home to Newfoundland" to raise a chunk of the $60,000 needed to bring their mother back to rest.

Unexpected downturn

Cathy Jennings moved to the Northwest Territories about 12 years ago, to the small community of Norman Wells. Her husband, Alicia McLaughlin's father, got a job there.

Each year, she would commute back home through Yellowknife, Edmonton and Toronto to spend a month or two with her family.

Her visits coincided with important events — the birth of a grandchild, their birthdays, Christmas Days and more. She wanted to be there for as many important memories as she could.

Alicia McLaughlin is in Yellowknife to be with her mother. (Alicia McLaughlin/Facebook)

On one of those visits last year, she began experiencing problems with her stomach. She was later diagnosed with several hernias and sent to Yellowknife for treatment. When one of the hernias wrapped around her bowel, she was sent to Edmonton for emergency surgery.

But it didn't go well — her bowel ruptured, leading to an incurable stomach infection.

In Edmonton, doctors told her there was nothing more they could do. They didn't have a firm timeline, but she was going to die, and sooner rather than later.

She was sent back to Yellowknife and her husband called their kids. McLaughlin came to be at her bedside, but has to return home on Wednesday to be with her own children in Newfoundland.

Grief has begun

McLaughlin is living in a strange state right now, where she feels grief for her mother's inevitable death while still trying to cherish every last minute together.

"It's so unbelievably hard," she said. "In a way, you're kind of in denial. I swear the doctors and nurses around here can't wait for me to leave, because I keep asking if there's anything more we can do. But there's no more we can do.

"It doesn't seem right that she is going to die."

The hospital in Yellowknife can only arrange a medevac so a patient can receive care it cannot provide. Since there are no more treatments available for Jennings, the only option is a costly private medevac flight.

You just try to not think about it, but then a wave hits you.- Alicia McLaughlin

McLaughlin realizes it's going to be a huge challenge to raise that much money, but she is committed to doing whatever she can to grant her mother's final wish.

"Most importantly, it means my dad won't be alone. I don't want him to be here by himself to watch Mom die," she said.

"In a world where you see so much divorce, they've been together 37 years and they are every bit as in love today as they were the first time they went out."

For the next 24 hours, McLaughlin will be by her mother's side until she has to leave on an airplane. It could be the very last time she says goodbye.

"Sometimes you just try to not think about it, but then a wave hits you that in a few weeks she's not going to be here anymore."