MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A father and son who fought two very different battles this year were home together for Christmas.
When Ryan Johnson went to war in Afghanistan this past spring, he didn’t know if his father would still be around for the holidays.
That’s because his dad, Scott, needed a double lung transplant.
But a first-of-its-kind surgery made the season bright for the Johnson family from Wyoming, Minn.
There was a welcome home sign on the Johnson’s house Wednesday night, and it marked the end of one of two battles this family has waged.
Scott Johnson said of his son: “I wanted him to focus on the mission at hand, so that he would come back safe.”
After months of fighting in Afghanistan, the Army guardsman did just that.
Ryan knew how sick his dad was when he left. Scott could walk only a few steps at a time, and one more flare up of his emphysema could have killed him.
Ryan told himself it would be OK, refusing to accept that when he got back, his dad might be gone.
“Everybody’s family’s still gonna be there, nobody’s going to be gone, nothing’s gonna change,” Ryan said.
But it did.
The University of Minnesota found two new lungs for Scott — ones that never stop breathing thanks to a machine and a procedure he was only the fourth-ever patient to receive.
Of the procedure Scott says: “This is just something not many people get.”
Because someone else’s life had ended, Scott’s would move forward at a pace no one could’ve imagined.
“To see how far he could walk without stopping to take a breath, it was really good to see him be able to do that,” his son said.
The family is finally breathing easy on a holiday marked by victory.
“I feel blessed every Christmas,” Scott said. “But this one is a lot different.”
He says his doctors say he’s healing at an incredibly fast rate.
Ryan is going to take some time off and enjoy what he calls “real food” before he goes back to work with the National Guard.