Neediest Families: Mom's death hits Tulsa family hard
BY SHANNON MUCHMORE World Staff Writer
Tuesday, December 25, 2012
12/25/12 at 8:02 AM
Give to the Neediest Families Christmas Fund and read all the stories in the series.
Randi Johnson's family thought they were out of the woods when she survived surgery for a heart problem, but the 23-year-old died days later when her pacemaker failed.
She had been in the ICU for more than two weeks after surgery for subaortic stenosis, but everyone expected her to survive.
Now her husband, Thomas Johnson, isn't sure how he'll explain what happened to their 4-year-old son, Brian Johnson, who has a developmental disability.
"My son's been robbed not only of his Christmas, but also his innocence as well," he said.
Edith Graves, Randi Johnson's mother, said her daughter was her best friend and she was a great mom who was very close to her son.
She misses most the cell phone photos her daughter would send of herself and Brian.
"She was awesome," Graves said.
Thomas Johnson gets some money from gigs here and there as an entertainer, but he hasn't been able to get a steady paycheck, despite applying to several places.
The family receives food stamps, Medicare and disability payments for Brian, but they aren't sure how they're going to continue to make ends meet without more of a steady income.
They've had to deal with funeral expenses and some medical bills that Medicare didn't cover.
Brian, who isn't toilet trained yet, was having a hard time at school this year, so he's being home-schooled at the moment. Thomas Johnson hopes to get him back into school soon.
Family and friends have been supportive but it's still hard to be without the boy's mother, Thomas Johnson said.
"It's just a roller coaster ride right now," he said.
Christmas has been especially hard because it's supposed to be a time for families to come together, he said.
He takes everything a day at a time and tries to deal with whatever comes up.
"You have to keep a straight face for the little boy so you don't let him know how bad things are," he said.
About the Neediest Families Fund Drive
The Neediest Families Fund Drive was established in 1928 to provide assistance to families in need during the holidays and the coming year.
This year's goal is to raise $300,000 by Christmas Eve. Last year's goal was exceeded; $334,888 was raised.
Each Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday through the holiday season, the Tulsa World will spotlight families chosen by The Salvation Army to receive help through this year's fund.
None of the money raised is used for administrative costs.
Cash is not given directly to the families. They are given vouchers for specific needs.
To help families such as the one featured today, send a check or money order to the Neediest Families Fund Drive, in care of the Tulsa World, P.O. Box 1770, Tulsa, OK 74102.
Donations are tax-deductible, and donors can be anonymous.
Original Print Headline: Mom's death hits family hard
Shannon Muchmore 918-581-8378
Edith Graves, Brian Johnson, 4, and Thomas Johnson at Graves' home in Tulsa. MICHAEL WYKE/Tulsa World