By Liz Collin

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – It’s a story of hope and resilience for this Thanksgiving holiday. Meet Henry Johnson. When the pandemic delayed the 4-year-old’s heart surgery, his family trusted his medical team through the process.

Born as what his parents believed was a healthy baby boy, Stephanie and Tyler Johnson were packing up to take Henry home from the hospital the day after his delivery.

“I will never forget the sound of the nurse’s footsteps coming toward our room. She was breathing very heavy and she told us that the plan had changed,” Henry’s mom, Stephanie Johnson said.

Henry was diagnosed with Hypoplastic left heart syndrome, a congenital heart defect with no cure. His series of surgeries began early in life, with his third scheduled for last March.

“There’s a lot of emotion building up to an open heart surgery. A lot of planning when you have other children but our trust in the team at Children’s Minnesota is 100%,” Johnson said.

Back then, that team scrambled to gather PPP and delay non-critical surgeries.

Dr. David Overman worked with a group of surgeons across the country to come up with a provision plan for pediatric cardiac cases.

“The challenge for us as providers is typically we’re only one or two maybe three people deep,” Overman said.

“The sifting of who needs surgery now and who can wait is that much more critical,” he added.

Four months after it was first scheduled, Henry had surgery in June. Within two weeks, he was home and able to keep up with his older sister for the first time in his life.

“You do get perspective because when you spend months in the hospital and we know we’re the lucky ones. There are children at that hospital that were there and they did not go home,” Stephanie Johnson said.

“There’s a lot of kids that have a similar diagnosis to Henry and aren’t doing as well. We’re very grateful for that,” Tyler Johnson, Henry’s dad said.

On this Thanksgiving, the Johnsons want to recognize all healthcare workers fighting for those like their son.

“We have a lot to be thankful for, for sure,” Overman said.

You can follow Henry’s story here.


Liz Collin