The Johnson family was gone during the early days of Covid-19, when the general public knew very little about the virus. The family returned with a feeling of slight nausea, mistaking it for food poisoning.
Johnson’s wife and children developed flu-like symptoms while his nausea got worse. He began to have difficulty breathing and could not stop coughing.
Johnson was ultimately in the hospital for 46 days, of which 21 days were on life support machines. At one point, his brother had already started planning his funeral and the doctors told his wife, Ashley, that there was nothing they could do to save him.
However, Johnson made a full recovery. The Mississippi who stands 6 feet 1 tall and weighs 250 lbs lost 52 lbs during his fight against Covid-19. He got back 20 of those pounds and also restored his sense of taste and smell.
Johnson attributes this recovery to community strength, prayer, and belief in general.
Johnson told CNN, “The doctors have told me that they cannot give me a medical explanation for how I am getting better.” Nobody can give me that explanation. It was the power of prayer in my mind and heart that saved me from my deathbed. I think God left the air in my lungs and kept me here on earth to spread this message. ”
“At least not a covid.”
Johnson said the Johnson family went to Nashville for a sports convention.
During their trip, the family went out to celebrate the birthday of Johnson’s wife, Ashley. They began to feel laughing in the days following dinner.
Ashley told CNN: “We were all feeling a little nauseous. At the time, I don’t think people were having stomach problems with Covid.” “We thought, ‘We can’t eat food, but at least it’s not a covid.’ The first thing we thought about was that we were feeling food poisoned.”
Ashley said other red flags appeared. Her husband was tired and their 22-year-old college footballer, Ellie, lost his appetite. Their 6-year-old daughter, Tori, began vomiting.
He told CNN that Johnson was in denial at the time.
“I am a passionate watcher of the news and I was watching how it was spreading around the world and into the United States … I subconsciously told myself that it was just a stomach ache.”
But as his illness progressed, he became convinced he had it. He called his doctor and was told that no tests were available so he had to wait four days for the test. Unable to wait, Johnson was tested for bacteria and the flu.
When he called his doctor again and reported having difficulty breathing and a persistent cough, he was told to go to the hospital immediately.
“She has already collapsed at the entrance to the emergency room,” Johnson said.
He was told he would need a ventilator. Resist because of the stats he read about the many unsuccessful people having been put on a ventilator.
Johnson texted his 20-year-old daughter Sydney while she was fighting with the medical staff.
She said the text says, “I think I’m dying.”
She finally accepted the ventilator. His family did not know if he would return home.
Sydney – who did not go to Nashville with her family because it was on spring break – says she drove home that night despite contracting Covid-19. Al Johnson sat together outside in the cold.
“It’s a very strange melancholy in this way, 6 feet on the concrete,” she said.
“My husband is a fighter”
After the first eight days of using a ventilator, Johnson said medical staff told his wife he only had a 5% chance of survival.
“They asked my wife to sign a ‘no resuscitation’ order,” Johnson said.
I told them: My husband is a fighter, let him fight. I begged them. I knew with three children that they needed their father and I needed a husband. I told the doctors that I believe in miracles, ”Ashley told CNN.
Doctors and Johnson’s family argued over his condition and whether he should be kept on life support machines. A decision was finally made to keep it up.
However, doctors prepared the family for his death.
“My brother has already made the funeral arrangements, and that’s how close I came to death,” Johnson said.
Since his daughter Sydney was the only one who did not test positive, Johnson said they let her go and pay her a final farewell. She received updates about her father every day from her mother.
Sydney told CNN: “The moment I was so excited to go there, it never occurred to me that the reason they called me was to say goodbye.”
When she got to the hospital, Sidney said she passed by her father’s room and didn’t even realize it was him because he had lost so much weight.
She said, “He was very weak.”
She wore head-to-toe protective gear, and remembered that she was wearing three different masks.
Then Sydney made the FaceTime call that no one wanted to make and dropped her phone in a plastic bag.
She said, “It was very surreal to think my brother, sister and mom were saying goodbye to me through a plastic bag.”
The family tells Johnson that everything will be fine, that he is strong and that they love him.
Sidney remembers his heart monitor going crazy afterward. Over the next 48 hours, Johnson showed improvement that allowed him to remain on the ventilator.
“From the moment he heard his family’s voice, he was just uphill from what seemed to be very bottom,” Sydney said. “I think that means he knew we were there and I think that had something to do with him being here today.”
“This was one of the most blessed years of our life.”
Johnson was unable to walk or speak as his condition improved.
He came home on May 12, the day before his daughter’s sixth birthday.
He said, “It took me another six weeks before I could walk on my own again.”
Johnson underwent physical and occupational therapy upon discharge from hospital. It was during this time that his wife began to tell him what she and her children had gone through while he was gone. She has been isolated with her 22-year-old son and youngest daughter for 21 days.
“Even with Covid, I had to really focus and be strong for my kids and husband,” Ashley said.
But that’s when the Oxford, Mississippi and University of Mississippi community stepped in to show their support, the family told CNN.
“I can’t thank them enough. I was eating a hot meal outside my door every day,” said Ashley, adding that people offered to buy groceries and pay the bills. “We didn’t want anything and never had to ask.”
One of Johnson’s co-workers also started GoFundMe for the family, whose medical bills have risen to at least $ 1 million. Johnson said the campaign raised at least $ 40,000.
However, it was the stories of people praying for him that really shocked Johnson.
“Thousands of people stopped and prayed for me and my family, and this is the lasting impression,” he said.
However, despite having been through such ordeal, the Johnson family does not look back in 2020 with disdain.
“This was one of the most blessed years of our lives,” Johnson told CNN, referring to the people who apologize to him for the bad year. “He has brought us closer as a family, has rearranged our priorities for what is important in our lives and inculcated our belief in humanity.”