William R. Johnson William Johnson

First post: Sep 29, 2020 Latest post: Oct 27, 2020
Welcome to our CaringBridge website. We are using it to keep family and friends updated in one place. We appreciate your support and words of hope and encouragement. Thank you for visiting.  This story is being written by Dr. Johnson's daughter, Alison. My father, William Johnson, has been very healthy in his dotage.  His orthopedist recently told us that he had the "constitution of a man in his 50's."  He had two routine back procedures (neurotomies) in August, two weeks apart.  In between those two visits, he discovered a lump in his left armpit.  We went through the typical diagnostic tests, chest x-ray, CT, then a litany of cardiac tests because of an erratic heart rate in the surgeon's office.  A note of interest,  our surgeon, the extraordinarily skillful and compassionate Duane N. Andrews , MD,  is the father of my dad's beloved pastor, Allison Andrews,   Another coincidence, Dr. Andrews is from Alvin, which is where my husband was raised.    


The armpit mass was biopsied on September 10th.  It was a minor, outpatient procedure, performed in the hospital with local anesthesia, under CT, by an interventional radiologist.  I stayed with my dad  until the evening hours and he ate dinner, was walking unassisted, and doing fine.  In the early morning hours September 11th , my cell phone rang  and identified the call  as coming from  my father's cell.  No one was on the other line.  Another call, same result. I  tried calling him  and there was no answer on his cell or landline, so I drove to his house.  He was on the floor,  I called 911 and took his BP (70/40) and his temp, (104.8).  He did not have his phone nearby so he asked Alexa to call me, twice.  The EMT's felt he had septic shock and sepsis was confirmed by the ER doctor.  He was admitted to the hospital.  Later, his surgeon and his hospitalist both shared with me that another 30 to 45 minutes without medical attention would have been fatal.


On September 22nd, Dr. Johnson had surgery to remove a baseball sized mass, (though a softball sized area was removed).  The mass was the source of the infection and was identified as squamous cell carcinoma.  He has had numerous small spots of this cancer removed over the past 15 years, and Dr. Andrews suspects that a spot removed on his posterior, upper left arm migrated to his armpit 2 years ago and likely began growing about the same time.  It went undetected until my dad noticed that his tee shirt felt too tight and examined the cause, discovering the tumor.  I took him to his PCP who surmised that the tumor appeared to be infected, prescribed antibiotics, and then sent us down the road of diagnostic tests,  After all of the tests proved inconclusive she then told us he needed to see a surgeon. Dad and I discussed two options (surgeon-wise) and  I texted Allison, (dad's pastor). You may have noticed that  we have the same first name (though hers is spelled wrong), :-). and we also have  the same middle name.  Thanks to Allison's connections ,  we had an appointment the next day.  Dr. Andrews spent two hours with my dad, the first spent  completing  the most thorough social history I have ever  heard, including details about each of his siblings, his parents and grandparents,  (and I am a social worker; I've written MANY social histories).  He then performed a complete and thorough physical examination which ended with him putting my dad's tennis shoes on him and then combing his hair.  The surgery on the 22nd lasted almost 6 hours.  Because of the infection in the mass, my father has battled several serious bouts with bacteremia, and we have had some touch and go days.  He is in 410, critical care, Houston tower, but we hope to be moved to the routine care end of the hall as soon as he is well enough.  


If you know my father,  then you are aware that he is a  private person and a quiet man, and not a fan of hoppla or fanfare., at least not as it relates to him; he loves to celebrate others.   He does not like to have attention focused on him.  When I was with him in the recovery room on the 22nd, one of the first things he said to me (after "Alison, what the hell happened?)  was to ask who had "asked after him."  I said, of all of the people who know you are going through this, all of them have asked after you." I have been trying hard to keep the people who love him most, his children, step children, his eight grandchildren, two great grand children  some very dear nieces, as well as some friends of his and mine, including Dad's pastor, apprised of what is  going on.  (His pastor has visited twice, allowing me to leave the hospital to take care of some personal health needs, even though he is on a floor with infectious COVID patients ).  However, it is hard to do, particularly because I am working remotely from Dad's hospital room, and he is my priority.  Thus, it  dawned on me that I should begin a caring journal on his behalf.  He greatly appreciates texts, cards, letters, anything that lets him know that there are others out in the world who are thinking of him warmly, and wishing him well.  If wish to send something to him,  message me and I will send you my address. 

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