Barbara Johnson spent decades as an active busy single mom. She was a registered nurse for 49 years, earned her Master's in Business Administration and had a career as a full-time regional manager of a large home health care company. She was always on the move working, skiing, water skiing, hiking, camping and taking family trips. She lived in Maui for several years to be near her son and grandson. During this time, she swam in the ocean and once witnessed the rare beauty of a whale giving birth and nurturing its newborn.
Barbara’s physical challenges began in 1984, when a car accident left her with back pain. While she tried to ignore it initially, the back pain increased over the years and she developed debilitating osteoarthritis. In 2009 even walking became a significant struggle, and she was forced to use a walker and wheelchair for a period of time. She tried to stay as mobile as possible because she felt giving in to the pain would only cause more decline in her health.
Her first surgery helped a bit, but the effects dissipated. Constantly in severe pain, Barbara shrunk 5 inches in height due to her back issues. As Barbara began to feel more and more trapped in her body the frustration about not being able to do all the things she used to do grew and she wanted desperately to be her independent self again. This would also enable her to better care for her daughter, who battles Lupus.
Following conversations with her doctor, it became clear that a second surgery, which centered around receiving the gift of donated bone to reconstruct her spine, was necessary.
While these intensive surgeries can take over a year to heal, Barbara felt a noticeable difference within the first month of healing from her surgery in early 2021. For over 12 years, she was not able to walk like she now can and she is eager to go and enjoy the outdoors again. “After this surgery, I am able to be upright, walk much longer distances and the pain is virtually gone," she said.
Barbara’s son and grandson passed away in 2014 and 2018 due to battles with cancer. Now, she hopes to return to Maui to visit them in spirit and reminisce about that miraculous moment with the whales.