Jordan’s Journey to Help Build a Pediatric Rehabilitation Center in Tennessee
BY Amelia Rose Smith
On a summer day in 2020, everything seemed normal as Jordan Johnson headed to a routine baseball game. But, to his surprise, he wouldn’t be celebrating a win with his team.
Jordan was in the dugout when a foul ball hit the back of his head. He shares, “Unfortunately, I was not wearing a helmet. I was ‘okay,’ but my coach and parents decided I should go to Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt to get it checked out.” Jordan’s mom, Ivette, tells, “During the CT scan, the doctors discovered a lesion the size of a golf ball. Through additional tests, Jordan was diagnosed with a cerebral cavernous malformation located near his brain stem. It seemed it was something he had since birth.”
Due to the size and location of the lesion, doctors recommended they remove the lesion quickly. Jordan tells, “My parents spoke with various doctors from several hospitals and decided VUMC was the best place for me to have surgery to remove the lesion. I selected July 21st as the day for my surgery since number twenty-one was my jersey number and has always been my lucky number.” John C. (Jay) Wellons III, MD, MSPH, was the neurosurgeon who performed the eight-hour, high-risk surgery.
Post-surgery, Jordan began taking physical therapy at VUMC, and then two weeks later, he was transferred to Vanderbilt Stallworth Rehabilitation Hospital to continue his recovery. “It was going to be a long journey, but I was ready,” admits Jordan.
Jordan’s physical size and the type of therapy he required made him eligible to recover at Stallworth. But, had circumstances been different, his family would have had to make arrangements outside the state.
“My family and I were surprised Tennessee does not have an inpatient pediatric rehabilitation center. I was fortunate to receive my inpatient rehab sessions close to home. Other families are not as fortunate.” Jordan continues, “Families are separated, and some may not have the funds to travel out of state for the necessary care. So, when I heard VUMC was trying to raise funds for a pediatric center, I wanted to help.” Jordan’s mom, Ivette, helped him set up a fundraising campaign on Facebook, and to his surprise, Jordan and his friends quickly raised close to $5,000.
Jordan had to relearn how to walk, talk, eat and other basic functions.
Jordan’s motivation and progress have remained steady throughout his recovery due to his unwavering support. Jordan’s mom (Ivette), dad (Jeff) and brother (Jalen) stayed by his side every step of the way. Jordan shares, “Many amazing doctors, nurses and therapists at VUMC have helped me during this challenging journey. They push me to get better. My faith in God has also kept me focused.”
For the past three years, while Jordan focused on recovering physically and mentally, he has attended virtual classes through Vanguard Virtual High School in Williamson County. Jordan shares, “The teachers and staff have been instrumental in getting me back on track to graduate on time.” However, he hopes to return to in-person school for his senior year. From there, Jordan has his heart set on attending the University of Tennessee Knoxville to pursue a career in Sports Medicine.
This April, Jordan, alongside his family, will be walking the runway at Friends & Fashion – an annual fashionable celebration of hope that raises funds for Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt. Jordan shares, “I am excited I can wear some cool clothes and very happy I can help raise funds to help children in Tennessee receive the best care possible!”
Jordan works daily to raise funds to make his dream of a pediatric center a reality. “Every donation matters. The donation you make today will have a long-lasting impact on this community. There is nothing greater than to serve and help others, especially during a crisis. Make a difference now,” Jordan comments. To donate or buy a ticket to Friends & Fashion, visit childrenshospitalvanderbilt.org/giving/friends-fashion.