Contributed by: Samantha Flavell
A garbage bag slung over her shoulder as a suitcase, she did not have much to physically carry. But the weight on her mind was almost unbearable.
She spent her life surviving; suffering years of sexual, emotional and physical abuse. Memories of kicks, punches and dark closets.
Traylene suffered through hot summers of wearing long sleeves and pants to hide the bruises and evidence of the horror that she suffered from.
Every day filled with torture and fear of what could happen next.
This childhood is enough to scare anyone, to cause such extensive emotional damage that you do not know how it is possible that they could ever truly recover.
Even after she escaped from that dark childhood home, the challenges did not end; Traylene was only beginning to discover the obstacles that life would send her way.
“I had to pretend my life was wonderful, that my legs and ribs weren’t aching,” Traylene said. “That I had the perfect life and Lord, help me. If I tried to seek help.”
She bounced from foster home to foster home.
Finding some to be better and more welcoming than others, but never truly feeling at home, never quite feeling safe.
It was not until she was 10 years old that Traylene was adopted by a Christian family, along with her biological brother, Shawn, and one of her biological sisters, Shawna.
As Traylene entered this new and safer chapter of her life she shredded her old name and became Johanna Jollie, along with her siblings who became Christian and Jill Jollie.
Johanna married young, at the age of 18 she became Johanna Morton. While in utter bliss that finally her life was happy, full and safe, life threw her another curve ball.
Soon after her marriage and honeymoon stage of bliss, Johanna began falling into episodes of what at first was thought to be seizures.
When she was admitted into the hospital the doctor asked her if she had been abused or suffered trauma in her life.
“After a long talk with the doctor, I deemed what I thought he said crazy,” Johanna said. “I cried. I wasn’t crazy though. I was diagnosed with PTSD.”
What had triggered Johanna’s PTSD or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from her childhood?
“What happened was, I was finally so happy and content with life,” Johanna said. “My brain decided I might be ready to take on some memories. In a way my brain was wrong.”
Each time her brain tried to resurface a memory, Johanna’s body would convulse, its way of suppressing the memory again.
Johanna desperately wanted to start her own family, to be able to offer a kid the happy childhood that she never had.
But her PTSD got in the way. Johanna’s convulsions became more and more frequent.
She had tried to do it without help but as each episode worsened, draining her physically and mentally she could not deny treatment any longer.
“With some time, my husband and I agreed… I did need to seek help,” Johanna said. “I finally caved and decided I wasn’t going to do this for me. I was going to do this for my future family. The family I so very much craved.”
PTSD is a constant battle.
Over time and treatment, Johanna was forced to unlock the horrific memories that she had spent years suppressing.
With every day a battle, she still fights PTSD, but now is equipped with strategies to control her triggers and live with her past.
One thing that did not change over time, no matter how many different houses she lived in when she was young, how many different parents she had, or how many challenges she faced.
One constant was Johanna’s drive to create a loving family of her own one day.
On October 29, 2015, that dream came true.
Johanna was never happier than when she found out that she was pregnant.
Her life goal of starting her own family was finally coming true.
At her first ultrasound, the excitement and joy continued.
Her baby was perfect and healthy, with the heart beat high and strong at eight weeks pregnant.
Four weeks later this happiness would quickly change to fear and uncertainty.
“Our tech became quiet, as she listened to the heart beat,” Johanna said. “It didn’t sound the same as before.”
And then, Johanna heard the words no new mother wants to hear. “Someone will be in to speak with you shortly.”
The doctor spoke gently. The baby had a downs indicator. T21, T18 or T14.
When they first discovered the baby’s complications Johanna was told that it was likely that she would miscarry at 12 weeks. Then it changed to that her baby would be still born.
But each day the baby grew, defying the doctors’ life expectancy predictions.
On June 14, 2016, Clara Ray Morton, against all odds, entered the word.
“Clara Ray continued to fight,” Johanna said.
At just 6 days old, Clara would have her first open heart surgery. With her many issues, multiple diagnosis and complications, doctors did not believe that Clara Ray would be long in this world.
Now at 10 months old, Clara Ray has defied all odds and amazed everyone.
“I used to question why I had to fight so hard to survive. Why I had to suffer so much,” Johanna said. “And now, under different circumstances our beautiful baby girl [Clara Ray], has to and it breaks my heart.”
Like mother like daughter. Johanna, a mother who survived a childhood of abuse and a young adulthood of treatment to overcome it, gives birth to a beautiful red haired baby girl, with such severe heart defects that she had open heart surgery at the age of 6 days who defies all doctors predictions, and makes it to 10 months old.
“Johanna is an excellent mother. She has matured so much, really shown such inner strength,” Darlene Jollie, Johanna’s adoptive mother said. “I don’t think she even knew how strong she could be.”
Through her own experience, Johanna has reached out to other Heart Moms (moms with children who have congenital heart disease, CHD) creating a network of awareness and support.
Johanna believes that it is essential that Heart Moms stick together. And that it is equally important to get as many stories as possible out to as many people as possible.
Johanna posts about the families she meets who have a child suffering from CHD, with family and friends and anyone who follows her personal Facebook page as well as her “Prayers for Clara Ray” page.
She hopes to create a network of prayer for not only her child, but for every child and family out there who is fighting a similar battle.
Johanna shares peoples’ stories to spread awareness about the information that people otherwise may not know.
In response to a CHD child named Caleb who caught the flu and became septic, Johanna urged for prayers as well as shares of how delicate the immune systems of CHD babies are.
“This is why we have to be so strict with Clara Ray,” Johanna said. “A cold could kill her. Pray for Caleb!”
Though she is a young mother, she battles her own struggles and works hard to make ends meet and pay off medical bills. Johanna has a drive to help in any way she can.
Offering support, prayer chains and knowledge to spread the word and awareness of CHD, in hopes of making the challenge these families face, just a little bit better.
Strong has been Johanna’s only option. With each new trial she has faced through life, she had to fight.
“I fought to be here today, to be a wife to an amazingly strong husband and to be a mother to an amazing strong little girl,” Johanna said. “And now I fight for her and she fights for us. We fight together, because together we are stronger.”
Together, they are a family of survivors.
Her personal page: https://www.facebook.com/johanna.jollie?hc_ref=SEARCH&fref=nf
Prayers for Clara Ray: https://www.facebook.com/Prayers-for-Clara-Ray-645544118920333/