WILLOWICK, Ohio — It's been more than a month since a severe winter storm that canceled holiday flights and knocked out power for thousands of people blasted Northeast Ohio.
That same storm nearly took the life of one Willowick woman after a night out in Independence on Dec. 23.
Janay Johnson’s family and community are rallying around her as she faces a long road of recovery after she was released from ICU.
“Young, healthy, independent and her whole life changed,” said Johnson’s mother, Erica Martino.
It was two days before Christmas when Johnson decided to go out with her friends, but at some point, she got separated from them. It wasn't until hours later that a stranger found her on the ground in a snow drift and called for help.
“I was terrified. Like, I honestly didn't think she was going to make it,” Martino said. “I just remember hugging her and crying and just being grateful that she had made it that far.”
Martino, who is a skilled nurse, recalls her daughter’s body temperature was 83 degrees, which doctors at Cleveland Clinic’s Hillcrest hospital say most people do not survive. When paramedics arrived, Johnson was unconscious and barely breathing.
According to a press release, the hospital team feared Johnson would die after realizing they were not equipped to save her. So, doctors there decided to stabilize her and prepare her for transport to a level-four trauma center on the other side of town. Johnson was intubated and, after several hours of triage, moved to the center’s burn unit.
Johnson is slowly regaining function in her hands in feet, bus doctors are concerned amputation may be necessary.
Still, Johnson is recovering at home. Though, as her mother explained, home is anything but normal right now as she also cares for Johnson’s niece Viviana, who has epilepsy and autism. Johnson had been serving as the five-year-old’s primary caretaker.
“They're like best friends, you know? She's afraid Viviana will, you know, bump into her, causing her more pain. So, she's kind of confined to her bedroom now,” Martino said. “It can take months to years until full recovery.”
In the meantime, Lake County’s Revolution Pizza, which opened weeks before the pandemic hit, is stepping up to support Johnson. After the community supported them, the shop’s manager says it is only right to return the favor to one of their own.
“It's a true miracle that she's still with us…whether it's lunch drives, whether it's helping out with our schools, whether it's medical funds. We always show up,” said manager Jurgen Wenzel. “The community has always been there for us. They've always supported us. And now it's, you know, it's our duty to get back and we're just pretty blessed to be in a position to be able to do that.”
Revolution Pizza is hosting a fundraiser for Johnson at its Willowick and Mentor locations Thursday, Jan. 26 between 11 a.m. and 9 p.m. Twenty-five percent of all proceeds will go towards her medical bills. There will also be a get-well banner at both locations for people to leave a message for Johnson.
A GoFundMe page is also active to help with Johnson’s recovery. To donate, click here.