2018-02-08 / Front Page

Sister is an exact match to provide bone marrow in live-saving transplant

By JANE ELLYN AARON
news editor


Reese Johnson’s older sister, Taylor, teases that he had better be nice to her. Reese Johnson’s older sister, Taylor, teases that he had better be nice to her. At not even one year of age, ­Wilkes County native Reese Johnson will soon undergo one of the biggest surgeries of his life, which comes in the form of a bone marrow transplant. While a major undertaking, his parents and siblings are now hopefully looking to the future, because Johnson’s savior was found right within his own family – his sister – who is an exact match for the transplant.

Spunky five-year-old Taylor will act as Johnson’s own guardian angel, as the pair takes on the surgery together, and while their parents Ricky and Meki Johnson aren’t without worry, they’re filled with a feeling of gratefulness that their son won’t have to sit waiting months, if not years, on a donor list.

“I feel so blessed because it’s hard to find a donor. His blood type is so rare, and my husband and I weren’t matches, and none of his other siblings were, so it was amazing that Taylor was,” Meki said. “I’m relieved that we won’t have to wait a long time for the transplant, but I’m scared, as a mother, because it’s dangerous.”

The Johnsons, no strangers to the volatile nature of their son’s condition, were first acquainted with his condition when he was one-month-old and doctor’s diagnosed the child as being born without white blood cells. It was shortly after his birth that Johnson’s constant crying and refusal even to fall asleep quickly alerted his parents to seek help.

Finding a diagnosis led to immediate treatments, nightly shots, and frequent doctor visits, which helped to restore Reese to his naturally quiet, sweet disposition, as his mother explained, “Reese is just so happy, so sweet, and such a quiet baby.

“He just smiles all the time, and he’s such an easy baby. He’s not ordinary at all – sometimes I think, ‘where did this child come from?’” Meki chuckled.

Because Reese’s body doesn’t produce the white blood cells needed to keep a healthy immune system, his mother, father, and siblings are all very guarded, keeping sanitation at the forefront of their lives.

“Reese is such a good baby, and he’s so used to being in the house. Because of his health, we really have to keep him away from the outside,” Meki explained.

Looking at the very near future, the Johnsons are expecting to schedule the transplant within the coming weeks at a children’s hospital in the Atlanta area. Before the procedure, however, Reese will go through three weeks of chemotherapy in preparation for the transplant. The family is also preparing Taylor for the surgery, as her mother explained that she has never experienced anything extensive like this before.

“We try to explain to her every day what’s going on, and that she’s going to save Reese’s life by doing this, just so she understands everything,” Meki said.

Light-heartedly she added, “Taylor is a mess, she always tells him, ‘Reese, you’ve got to be real nice to me, because I’m saving your life.’”

Doctors and specialists have impressed that this transplant is of the up most importance to Reese’s life and longevity, and while the Johnsons know they have a long road ahead of them, they still give thanks to the Lord, and are praying as they go.

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