Submitted by Jennifer Johnson, mother of Jacob Johnson
Team Jacob will be running in the 2013 Cleveland Heart Walk Sept. 28, supporting Fairview High School senior Jacob Johnson, and is looking for help from the community.
Johnson has been class treasurer for the past four years and was an active athlete participating in cross country and track and field since the seventh grade. He was not a great distance runner, but sprints were his thing in middle school, where he won most races he ran, and by the time he reached his sophomore year he was starting to come into his own.
While competing in the 2012 Warrior Relays, a 34-year tradition in Fairview Park, he was running in the 400-meter medley relay. He looked great; he was in the lead for the first 300 meters. But on the final 100, I saw something was wrong. He was gasping for air, struggling. His color changed to gray, and I just knew something was wrong. I was watching the finish line where he had to pass the baton to his team mate and I saw him collapse. We are uncertain what happened that day, if it was a heart attack or something else. That race was the last race he will ever run. He gave his all that day pushed himself harder than he ever had so at least he knows he went out like a Warrior.
But that day (April 20, 2012) I will never forget. What happened next was a series of surreal doctor visits. Jacobstarted out being an active runner with a drive and determination that was inspiring. Jacob had overcome so many obstacles in his life. When he was 2, he was diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis and spent a lot of time in the hospital. His medications gave him other illnesses that are unheard of for someone his age. He never really complained; instead he just rolled with it.
It’s this laid-back attitude that came to be a blessing during his first stress test, which was stopped because they were afraid he was going to go into cardiac arrest. The doctor said that it is his laid-back, easy-going attitude that has probably kept him without incident for so long.
On June 1, 2012 Jacob had another episode while riding his bike. He lost his four front teeth. His friend called me and said, “Mrs. Johnson, Jacob fell off his bike and he’s got some blood on his face. You might want to come up here.”
Kids have a way of underplaying things. It was later that his friend told me that he thought he passed out, and it seemed as though that is just what happened.
On June 19, 2012, he received an implanted loop recorder to record every beat of his heart so they could figure out where the misfire is. We have yet to find the cause but we have a great cardiologist so I’m sure it’s only a matter of time. In March we went back to the doctor and we will make arrangements for him to receive an implanted cardiac defibrillator so that he can have a more normal life.
For Christmas we got an automated external defibrillator (AED) for home. In case his heart stops beating, we might be able to charge it out of an arrythmic rhythm. He has only been cleared to participate in five sports: billiards, archery, cricket, darts and bowling. If you are a runner, then you know they are nowhere near as thrilling and rewarding to those who have the heart of a runner. While he can’t run or participate in any of the track and field events, he will still be on the team as manager. It’s not the same thing, but he will be able to support his team which has been there for him.
Johnson also volunteers at Fairview Hospital, and this past year he also volunteered at the Wigs for Kids charity, which is a great cause. He believes in giving back to the community, and he really appreciated the support that he got last year from friends, family and community.
Last year Team Jacob was about 30 members strong and we raised $2,700. We had a great time, and the support of family, friends and the community meant so much. We hope you can join us this year for a great time. If you would like to join Team Jacob, we’d love to have you.
To learn more about Jacob’s story, go to http://westlife.northcoastnow.com/fairview-track-community-joins-team-jacob-for-cleveland-heart-walk/ in the West Life archives, or see Team Jacob’s donation page at http://heartwalk.kintera.org/faf/donorReg/donorPledge.asp?ievent=1032227&supid=359284654.
Johnson hopes to become a surgeon after high school and to help battle heart disease on the front lines.