OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Elliott Johnston never meets a stranger. He is only two years old, but already he has had seven surgeries and was on life support for a month.
“Everybody is a friend,” his mom, Mariah Johnston, said. “He’s very chatty.”
Everyone gets a hug and a smile. Elliott’s big blue eyes are full of life, but Elliott hasn’t always been.
“About halfway through my pregnancy my doctor just thought she saw a hole in his heart,” Mariah said. “I could immediately tell something was wrong. It took a while for her to come in and talk to us. She said she didn’t think it was anything major, but I just had this feeling.”
A mother’s instinct. From there they were sent to a specialist who sent them to another specialist and eventually to OU Children’s Hospital.
“Each time it got a little worse,” his mom said. “None of them could tell us what was wrong until we got here.”
Elliott and his family live in Tulsa, but they had to travel to Oklahoma City for the level of care he needed to survive.
“He was born with basically two pumping chambers that work together to pump the blood to the body and to the lungs,” Dr. Anas Salkini said. “He had severe respiratory failure to the point that conventional ventilation wasn’t adequate to support him to maintain his oxygenation. We had to put him on ECMO. It’s a machine that takes the blue blood from the body and pumps it throughout the system, supporting the lungs and the heart.”
Before Elliott was even born and several times after, there were many close calls. Never in a million years did his family think he would be here today. The pediatric heart program at OU Children’s Hospital is one of the best in the world – the Children’s Hospital Foundation not only keeps it going, but also the children and families who show up here for care.
“We are coming up on the two year anniversary of his long, scary hospital stay,” Mariah said.
Doctors and nurses didn’t think he’d make it through that stay, so they checked him out of the hospital and took him to the zoo. They wanted Elliott to enjoy a special day and make one more good memory.
“He suffered from strokes while on life support, and that took away the ability for him to move the right side of his body,” his mom said. “We didn’t know what other areas of his brain had been affected. So we didn’t know if he would talk, if he would walk. To see him now is such a blessing.”
If you’d like to donate to the Children’s Hospital Foundation to help keep this and other life-saving medical programs here in Oklahoma, visit CHFKids.com