Smarty Mom: Nancy Johnson
Mom of: Jim (5) and Davis (3 ½……have to put the ½ or he will be bummed!)
Married to: James for 6 years
Years in Charlotte: 10 years
Nancy Johnson is a miracle worker with a personality that shines with faith, love, and patience. Long before she had children, Nancy was a loyal volunteer for the Ronald McDonald House (RMH). However, two years ago her family ended up on the receiving end of their hospitality. Her son, Jim, suffered a terrible fall while on a beach vacation with his family. Jim fractured his skull and was sent for immediate cranial surgery. During their time of need and recovery, The Ronald McDonald House became their second home and Nancy experienced firsthand the amazing charity she always loved.
Nancy is now one of the leading volunteers for the Charlotte based RMH (currently in construction). She also hosts an annual fundraiser for the Ronald McDonald House called “Jump for JOY” (appropriately held at Monkey Joe’s). Nancy also proudly supported this year’s “Sport a Shirt” event where she helped sell 500 shirts which equals almost 550 nights for families to stay at the RMH in Charlotte.
Today her son Jim is a healthy boy full of energy. Charlotte, I’m so proud to introduce you to Nancy Johnson. She is the type of woman who makes a difference in this world through her selfless heart and faithful soul.
Describe the fall Jim experienced and what was your Mommy “gut reaction”?
Ooooohhh….we just had the two year anniversary of Jim’s accident last week, but any many ways, it was as if it were yesterday! We were in Southport down near the water and we were feeding the sea gulls. Jim was holding the bag of goldfish and about 20 sea gulls rushed right near his face and he began to run backwards and hit the edge of the sea wall and fell off a 6 foot cliff on to some large rocks. Fortunately, we were a couple of blocks from the hospital, so we drove him directly to the ER.
At the hospital, they took a CAT scan which revealed Jim had a fractured skull and they would have to transfer him to a trauma center hospital. They transferred him by helicopter to Pitt Memorial in Greenville, NC. I was not allowed to fly with them, so we had to drive to Greenville. One of the silver linings of that day was that my brother was down at Atlantic beach and was able to drive to Greenville and get there in time to be there when Jim arrived by helicopter. Our drive was a lot longer, so we arrived later…….when we arrived, my husband was just getting to Greenville as well (he was driving from Charlotte)……the neurosurgeon showed us the CAT scan and told us that Jim would immediately have to have surgery to correct the fracture. So within minutes of our arrival at the hospital, Jim went in to surgery. I cannot say enough wonderful things about Pitt Memorial and the staff that cared for Jim…..we were in great hands.
That day I re-realized as a parent, you wear your heart on your sleeve the rest of your days. I would have given anything to have been the one to have fallen in the place of my 3 year old, but so much in life is out of our control. We can do the best job possible as a parent and “things” are still going to happen (this was the hardest thing for me to grasp). When Jim fell off the cliff, I felt as if I fell with him. Jim was a trooper through this whole experience…….he was so brave, so strong and so very resilient. I learned so much from him! I was so proud of him!
How long did you spend at The Ronald McDonald House and what was your stay with them like?
We stayed a week at the RMH. My husband and I would take turns and the other would stay in the hospital with Jim. One night, my sweet sister-in-law, Louisa, stayed in the hospital so James and I could both get a good night sleep at the RMH. I think I slept for 10 hours straight!!!
The house was so comfortable and had all the conveniences of home. Friends got the fax number at the RMH and we received faxes from them to Jim wishing him well. So many of Jim’s friends drew pictures and wrote letters and we were able to get all correspondences through the RMH.
One of the most touching things was when Jim was discharged from the hospital. We took him by the RMH so he could see where our “home base” had been while he was in the hospital. He kept calling it the “Old McDonald House”. When we checked out, the RMH gave Jim a quilt some volunteers made for him to always remember his friends at the RMH. He rode home from Greenville to Charlotte wrapped in the RMH quilt and a prayer shawl our church sent him. It was as if he was wrapped in love all the way home!
What is your current involvement with the Charlotte Ronald McDonald House and when is it set to open?
I have worked on a couple of projects for the Charlotte RMH. Last year, on the year anniversary of Jim’s fall, we sponsored an event at Monkey Joe’s called “Jump for Joy” and proceeds went to benefit the Charlotte RMH. I also had a blast selling shirts for the “Sport a Shirt” event back in April.
The first classes for volunteer training at the RMH are going to be held in August. This is a great way to begin involvement with the wonderful new Charlotte based RMH. I would encourage everyone visit their website www.rmhofcharlotte.org and sign up for the training class and monthly newsletters! I will be there and can’t wait to get started!!! There is also going to be a “fun run” event on September 11th to benefit the RMH of Charlotte and organized by the Cornwell Center. With the help of our community and volunteers, the Charlotte RMH should open spring 2011.
Do you have any advice for families dealing with a medical emergency that has changed their course of life?
I realize everyone has a different situation. For me, it was so crucial to take the proverbial “one day at a time”. I tried not to look too far ahead and get worried about what the next month or next day would look like. I tried to take each challenge as it presented itself.
It is hard for me to be on the receiving end of help. I am much more comfortable being the “helper”. However, when these situations arise, you just have to let others help you out. If friends and family want to help and I say, let them! As caregivers you also need to remember to take care of yourself (which is easier said than done). Take a walk, go get a cup of coffee, pray, whatever relieves stress. When you are running on empty, you cannot effectively help anyone!
How did you maintain your faith and energy throughout Jim’s recovery?
I have a WONDERFUL family, WONDERFUL friends, and a WONDERFUL church family. I felt their prayers, their support and their love across the miles when we were in Greenville and even back in Charlotte. My husband was a rock of strength for me as well….always so supportive, positive and loving. I could not have made it with out all of this support.
I also knew that we were all being carried through this ordeal (similar to the “Footprints In the Sand” story). I truly felt the presence of God during this scary time.
What services will The Ronald McDonald House here in Charlotte offer families in need?
The RMH of Charlotte will provide a wonderful, supportive home away from home environment for families that have children being treated at our local hospitals. There will be a full kitchen to cook meals, laundry rooms, a computer room, a play area, living and community areas. The goal is to provide a comfortable space to visit with others and many, many other services that are far too many to mention!! It is going to be a great place!!
Favorite “mommy time” activity?
I love having dinner with friends and going to see plays/musicals!!! I am also trying to pick up golf!
Favorite girls night out spot?
The Wine Shop on Fairview Road
Best place to eat out with the whole family?
Honestly, any place that we are eating out as a family is a good spot, because it means I don’t have to cook!!!
We love them all, but if I had to choose, I’d either say Carmel Park or Colonial Park.
Mini-van or SUV?
I have an SUV, but if I found a mini-van in my driveway with a big red bow on it from my husband (hint, hint dear!) I would be over the moon!
Best book you’ve read lately?
I loved “The Help”, “Middle Places” , “Water for Elephants”, and “Becoming More than a Good Bible Study Girl.”
I could not live without my (mom or kids related…)
I could not live without my family, my friends, my faith or my IPOD!!!!
Best thing about raising a family in Charlotte?
Best kept secret in Charlotte?
The Ronald McDonald House of Charlotte…..!!! Please check out their website and learn how to get involved….I promise you won’t regret it!
I volunteered at the Ronald McDonald House in Chapel Hill while in college, and that time was some of my more profound moments of college. I still have such great respect for this organization!