A gunshot wound, coupled with news of a long recovery, has not prevented one Hants County boy from having a positive outlook on life.
Eleven-year-old Connor Johnson was accidentally shot in the leg on a hunting trip in St. Croix Nov. 23. After spending nearly a month in the hospital, and facing a handful of intricate surgeries to repair his right leg, Connor was released in time to celebrate the holidays with his family. And, in spite of his injury, his family says the pre-teen has an amazing attitude.
“He hasn't questioned the fact that it happened. He knows it was an accident,” said his mother, Lisa Johnson, in an interview at the Hants Journal office. “He has no ill feelings about it. He just accepts it the way it is.”
She says the outpouring of community support the family has received since the accident has been heartwarming — and extremely appreciated.
“Family support and community support has just been phenomenal,” Lisa said.
A benefit was held for the family on Dec. 7 at the Windsor Legion. The fundraiser has helped Connor's parents, Lisa and Rick, stay home to care for him, travel to and from necessary appointments and celebrate the holidays.
The 4-H Club that the Johnsons' daughter, Shaylin, belongs to also helped provide financial assistance and food, and the Windsor Fire Department members, veterans and auxiliary, also rallied to support the family. So too did Grant Thornton, Lisa's employer.
Lisa said the public's support continues to be felt.
“We’re not sure that we will have a chance to thank everyone who has helped us.”
She told the Journal the donations have made it possible for Connor, who requires 24/7 care, to have his parents home to look after him — a gesture that will never be forgotten.
“We got several gift cards for gas, the grocery store and cash donations from the benefit and the auction. It will come in handy over the next few months,” said Lisa.
She said Connor has a long road to recovery ahead of him, but that he's got “a good attitude” and is more than understanding of the situation.
Connor's right leg currently has an external fixator on it that will need to be in place for approximately another two months. It's a tool that is used to stabilize bone and soft tissue. Every week, the family travels to the hospital for a check up and to have the pins adjusted, if required.
She said the surgeons plan to put “staples in the growth plate of his other leg to stop the growth there so the other leg can catch up length-wise.”
Connor lost three centimetres of height in his right leg as a result of the accident, she noted.
“When he is 14 and his big bone, and his thigh, is done growing, they will probably do the same procedure with the staples in the growth plate to stop it again until his legs are the same length.”
Those attending the benefit were told of how strong Connor has been through all of the surgeries and uncertainty.
“We couldn’t be more thankful for how he has handled this accident. He has been so mature and accepting of the situation,” wrote Lisa in a letter that was read aloud at the December benefit.
“He didn’t get upset when hearing the doctors tell him he has pins going in his leg or that they are going to graft skin from his thigh and put it on his shin or that he will have that heavy leg gear on until his leg is healed,” she continued.
“He didn’t complain, well, maybe just a few times because nurses had to wake him up every couple hours for a few days while he was on the morphine drip — 'that interrupted my sleep' he said.”
While in the hospital, Lisa said Connor was a model patient.
“The nurses were shocked he'd just pop however many pills he needed in his mouth and take them all at once whereas (for) a lot of children, it would be a bigger struggle,” she said.
“He was just joking around with the nurses and doctors all the time, like 'what are you doing to me now?' or whatever,” she said, adding “He's a pretty laid back and easygoing kid. He can take a joke and give a joke.”
Connor was in the hospital from Nov. 23 to Dec. 17. His first major outing was on Dec. 19, when he had the chance to attend his school's annual turkey dinner. The outing was exhausting, Lisa said, but made him quite happy.
Lisa said Connor will be able to begin physiotherapy once the external fixator is removed and she hopes he will soon be able to return to Windsor Elementary School.
Lisa said the family is still receiving the occasional donation, and while they don't expect it, they are grateful for the continued community support.
“(I'd like them) to all know what it means to be in a supportive community.”