Organ Donation Fred James-The Orlando Times
Following Up: Organ Donations Save A Man’s Life
Publisher’s Younger Brother Receives Two Organ Transplants
BY JALESSA NEAL, TIMES STAFF WRITER
CUTLINE: Frederick “Freddye James” Johnson and his wife, Sharon Johnson.
FORT LAUDERDALE - One heart attack, two organ transplants and four surgeries later, a man gets a second chance at life. Three years later, we revisit Frederick “Freddye James” Johnson for an update.
Born in Sanford, Florida in 1950, at the age of five his mother Elizabeth married Calvin Collins Sr., whom Johnson always viewed as his father.
After graduating from Penn Yan Academy High School in 1969 he received basic training at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas before attending the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
During a physical in 1969 he was diagnosed with a heart murmur.
“They told me that at some point in my life I would have to have major heart surgery,” Johnson said.
After an honorable discharge he decided to attend Kings College in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania for two years before transferring to a college near his hometown of Penn Yanfor a semester. Later on, he began working at Eastman Kodak Company, where he would eventually retire.
In 2009, his concerns became a reality and he had to have a valve replacement. Shortly thereafter, in 2011, he had a heart attack.
After three weeks with no results he was transferred to Jackson Memorial Hospital. Two weeks later he came out of shock but had atrophy, so they started treating him and released him to a rehab center, where he would learn how to walk again. His treatment took a total of 8 weeks.
After returning to his Veteran’s Affairs (VA) doctor a Left Ventricular Assist Device (LVAD) was implanted and he was put on an organ transplant waiting list in February 2013.
While on the LVAD he was very weak and would often suffer from fainting and other medical issues. Unfortunately, the medication he was prescribed caused problems with his kidneys, so he needed a kidney transplant as well.
After receiving a life-changing phone call from Jackson Memorial at 2a.m. he underwent his heart and kidney transplants on January 9th and 10th of 2016. Dr. Brossi performed that heart transplant and Dr. Chin did the kidney.
“He’s a very strong man so one of the things that really helped me to get through the whole ordeal was that his faith never wavered,” said Sharon Johnson, his wife. “[This situation] certainty changed my view of organ donation. After this whole ordeal and to see the importance of that I would be a strong advocate for that.”
Both organs came from the same donor. Medical professionals are restricted from telling patients who their donor was, however, one of his doctors revealed that the person was 27 years old.
“If anybody has the opportunity to be an organ donor they should step up. Especially in the black community, and people of color in general, they have a hard time donating organs,” said F. Johnson.
“The transplant has been very [beneficial] for me. Without it wouldn’t be here,” he added. “I think organ donation is priority one. When you go to motor vehicles check the box to become an organ donor because, look at me, it would be real worth it to someone in need of an organ.”
His initial complications included: fluid build-up around his kidney, which resulted in the implant of an interventional radiology draining device from March to August, 2016; and infections that required him to carry an anti-biotic dispensing device at all times for 7-8 weeks.
“I admire his strength and courage for what he went through. I never really believed in organ donation until the situation that happened with my brother,” said Walter Miller.
Currently, Johnson is doing great health wise. Due to the pandemic he has been staying home and following CDC guidelines. He also has regular televisits with his doctors.
“Fred has a strong belief in God and that must have been key to his successful recovery, as well as top notch medical care,” said his older brother Dr. Calvin Collins, Jr. “Fred is an intelligent man, a family man, and a faithful Christian. What he has achieved with this heart and kidney transplant has been miraculous and obviously God-oriented and directed.”
He takes about 17 medications each day at various times and with various doses. They help treat blood pressure, anti-rejection to the organs, and diabetes.
Fredrick attends the Redeeming Word Christian Center International, which is currently hosting online services.
He and his wife Sharon have been happily married since 1991. The two have four children: Jerold Dixon, Denise Barber, James Weldon Johnson, and Charleen Johnson. They have seven grandchildren and one great grandson.
“Bottom line, the doctors didn’t expect me to make it so I’m blessed to say I have a new heart inside of me and I’m actively doing the things I’ve always wanted to do,” said Johnson. “I appreciate that God put me in a position to receive that heart.”