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After son’s rescue, Denver mom gets turn to save a life

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When seven men lifted a car off 3-year-old Josh Johnson last year and saved his life, his family members talked of how they hoped they could one day repay the debt to the good Samaritans.

And, in classic pay-it-forward manner, the opportunity came nearly a year later during the Brighton Turkey Trot race Nov. 20.

Josh Johnson’s mother, Karrina, a nurse, was running in the race when she came upon a man in his 50s seemingly having a heart attack. She performed CPR while another woman tried to help resuscitate the stranger.

The man, whose first name they later learned is Alphonso, started breathing again and survived. He was taken to Platte Valley Medical Center, where he was talking to doctors, said Brighton Fire Chief Mark Bodane.

“I can’t describe it,” Johnson said. “It’s a really good feeling . . . just returning the favor to someone in need.”

Josh Johnson was struck by a car Dec. 19 in the parking lot of the Wal-Mart at Interstate 70 and Evergreen Parkway in Jefferson County and dragged 9 feet.

He was with his grandmother, Joyce Johnson, when he darted away from her. He reached to snatch a penny off the pavement when he was struck by a small sedan.

Josh was on his back, pinned under the chassis of the car with his legs bent over his belly when the men in the parking lot saw or heard what happened and rushed over. The little boy was unconscious.

The men lifted the car as someone pulled the badly injured child out.

An off-duty firefighter who happened to be in the parking lot helped expedite the process of getting a helicopter to the scene, Karrina Johnson said. Josh was flown to Children’s Hospital in Aurora.

Had the men not immediately responded the way they did, Josh may not have survived, she said.

“Afterwards, they just disappeared into the crowd not expecting anything in return,” Johnson said. “It was amazing there were enough people who cared to help my baby out.”

Josh was gravely injured, with several broken ribs, cracked vertebrae, punctured lungs, a lacerated liver and severe burns on his legs that required skin grafts. He was in Children’s Hospital for a month before he returned home in a full-body cast.

His mother and older brother, Caleb, nursed him back to health, and today, he shows few signs of his injuries. He was watching cartoons Tuesday before showing visitors his tiny blue Christmas tree and his toys. He parted his hair to reveal a large C-shaped scar where his scalp was torn away during the accident.

He proudly said his mother is a hero.

“I went into work mode”

Johnson, a nurse at Kindred Hospital in Denver, was about a mile into the Turkey Trot when she saw a woman trying to resuscitate a man lying on the grass between the sidewalk and the street.

She told two police officers that she was a nurse and began performing CPR.

“It was kind of like I went into work mode,” Johnson said.

When paramedics arrived about four minutes later, she did chest compressions in between paramedics’ using a defibrillator.

“His heart kicked in,” Johnson said.

After paramedics left, she stood on the sidewalk for a few moments. Though she doesn’t know the man’s full name, and the Brighton Fire Department cited federal privacy rules in declining to release it, the city is trying to arrange a ceremony thanking her for the effort.

“I was standing there after everything was done. It was kind of surreal. I was thinking, did that just happen? Then I thought, what should I do next? I jogged through the race.”

Kirk Mitchell

Guest Blogger
Author: Guest Blogger

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  • comment avatar Aaron December 2, 2010

    Awesome! I appreciate any follow-up stories on like this one on Josh Johnson and his family. We read the horrible stories of their accidents so it’s nice when there can be a positive follow up. The Post should do more of these. It doesn’t have to be as grand as saving a life to make one an uplifting story.

  • comment avatar Gianna D December 2, 2010

    Seven men, there, who lifted the car off Josh, then, Karina Johnson, there, to perform CPR on Alphonso . . . was it being at the right place at the right time . . . or divine intervention? We can be happy for both Josh and Alphonso and thankful for whichever phenomenom.

  • comment avatar Kelly B December 2, 2010

    There was one other person involved in this rescue who was not mentioned in this article, my neighbor Laura Jones who jumped right in and started doing CPR along with the officer who was there. She was a huge factor in the reason why this man lived. I’m not quite sure where the Denver Post got the sources on who was involved but she deserves to be mentioned in this as well. Even after the race was finished she called to see how this man who she doesn’t even know was doing.

  • comment avatar Desi December 2, 2010

    Not all heroes wear capes, cowboy hats or sports uniforms. In fact, none do. They do, however, come from all walks of life. They don’t seek attention, they don’t seek fame. They don’t seek remuneration, parades or even their names in the paper.

    Thank you, Karrina, for being one man’s hero. You have reminded me that we are all capable of the miraculous. I’m so happy that you were able to repay your “debt”, although I am fairly sure that none of the men who rescued your son would ever expect any kind of repayment. I’m sure that, like you, they were just so happy to be able to help another person in such a profound way.

  • comment avatar In the Know December 2, 2010

    Excellent story – it’s great to read stories like this one. I think Mom had the chance to ‘pay it forward’; she’s likely pretty set in her karma bank these days.

  • comment avatar Beth S December 2, 2010

    I am so glad that someone followed up on this little boy. I shop regularly at this Walmart and think of him everytime I am in the parking lot with my girls. And I have been wondering how he is doing and it brings tears to my eyes to know he is doing so well! I too wish there would be more follow up stories on people!

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