Caleb Johnson had a unique gift on his Christmas list this year. He wanted to find the nurse that saved his life. Here is the story with some added details.
In the early morning hours of November 22, 2000, one year old, Caleb, sat in his infant car seat. He was cooing and giggling at his four siblings while his mom and dad conferred over directions in the front seat. They were on their way to visit family for Thanksgiving, a trip they had all been looking forward to with great anticipation. From their home in McKinney, Texas, it would be a 3 ½ hour drive to Austin. The early morning was quiet and the typical road trip bickering hadn’t yet begun.
The car stopped so Caleb’s mom could look both ways before she pulled onto the highway. The way looked clear, but on one side of the intersection was a hill that created a dangerous blind spot. Just as Caleb’s mom hit the gas pedal, an 18 wheeler came over the hill and hurtled toward them. There was a scream, a slam on the brakes, a quick acceleration, and then a crash. Soon the car was spinning out of control until it stopped in the dirt on the side of the road.
Both the driver of the semi and Caleb’s mom swerved to avoid collision. Unfortunately, they both moved in the same direction which resulted in a direct hit to the front corner of the driver’s side. Caleb’s mom was gone before the car stopped spinning. His dad would join her the next day.
Caleb’s car seat was in the seat directly behind his mom, which meant he suffered the greatest impact of all his siblings. He lost consciousness and his panicked siblings assumed the worst. Helpful onlookers had reported the accident and an ambulance arrived within minutes. Caleb was removed from the vehicle through the broken window next to him.
Caleb was placed on a hard stretcher in the back of an ambulance. Paramedics began working even before the ambulance was on its way to the hospital. Though he had four siblings, Caleb was alone with the paramedics. His 12 year old sister was the only other person who had been removed from the vehicle, but she sat with the driver in the front of the ambulance.
“They made me sit in the front. They said it was so I would be more comfortable, but I knew that wasn’t the real reason. They didn’t think Caleb was going to make it.” Kirsten Johnson Moody
Caleb had suffered severe head trauma, including multiple skull fractures. This trauma resulted in traumatic brain injury. The paramedics did what they could, but Caleb was barely hanging on when they arrived at the hospital. It was imperative that he receive medication through an IV. At 13 months old, it was difficult enough to place an IV in his tiny veins.
One nurse was given this task. Without this IV, Caleb had no chance of survival. She feared a pronunciation of death was in the future, but she pressed on with determination.
It soon became clear that Caleb’s veins were collapsed, which meant inserting the IV in this small baby was not just difficult, but nearly impossible.
She made multiple attempts which all failed.
She tried again in new spots, with different techniques, everything she could think of. She kept trying beyond the reasonable number of attempts. Still, she could not insert the medication. She knew it was time to give up.
This dedicated nurse looked up to the ceiling. She cried and she prayed. She promised that she would try one last time to save this boy’s life. It was now or never.
The nurse made a cut in Caleb’s ankle and miraculously inserted the medication directly into the bone marrow.
Caleb’s injuries were extensive and it took many other talented medical professionals to ensure his survival. But without this one nurse, he wouldn’t have even had a chance.
The nurse was able to relay this story a year later to family members, but they neglected to get her name. Caleb grew up hearing about the nurse that saved his life. Now at 18, he made a video to find her.
Today, Caleb deals with several limitations as a result of his traumatic brain injury, but he doesn’t let that stop him from enjoying life. He is a talented singer, a hardworking student, and an extra fun uncle. He is so grateful for the life he has lived thanks to this nurse.
In one of his many surgeries immediately following the car accident, Caleb received a zigzag incision from ear to ear on the top of his head. Caleb likes to shave his hair and wear the zigzag like a battle scar as he runs 5Ks to raise awareness for traumatic brain injury.
We shared last night on the Caleb Electric Brain facebook page that we found the nurse! Thank you so much for everyone who has helped us! We were very sad to hear that the nurse unfortunately passed away from cancer a few years ago. We are still trying to reach out to her family so we can thank them. We also want to connect with others that helped our family 17 years ago. We would love to fly down to Texas to see them and say thanks.
Thank you again to everyone who shared our video. The response has been overwhelming. It has been incredible to see the lives that Caleb has touched. Sign up for emails to learn more about Caleb’s story.