Caregivers reunite with teen, former patient after viral video

Five hospital caregivers in scrubs

It was a Thanksgiving miracle and a Christmas wish 17-years in the making for Caleb Johnson. The now 18-year-old young man survived a horrific crash that killed his parents and injured his four siblings on November 22, 2000. Nearly two decades later and a video gone viral, Caleb’s wish to meet the caregivers who saved his life finally came true.

Young man holding notecard that says All I Want for Christmas is to Find the Nurse Who Saved My Life

Caleb’s Facebook plea, which has been viewed more than 35 million times, to find the nurse who saved his life when he was just 13-months old resulted in a reunion with five members of his healthcare team at Medical City McKinney (formerly North Central Medical Center). Sadly, Dennie Miller, the nurse whose actions were instrumental in saving baby Caleb’s life, passed away years ago from cancer.

Registered nurses Janna Sullivan, Michelle Hooks and Shelly Morris, as well as Wendi Gracy, now a surgical liaison, and respiratory supervisor Thomas Augustine were also working in the hospital that day. They sat down to Skype with Caleb and his family to talk about the experience and, hopefully, provide some much-needed closure.

“This reunion means a lot,” said Augustine, a respiratory therapist at the time Caleb was admitted. “I’ve worked here 25 years, and this reunion made it all worth it.”

“From the day I saw your video, as soon as it said car accident in McKinney, Texas, I immediately burst into tears,” said Gracy, who worked as the ER unit secretary at the time of the fatal crash. “I knew it was you. I knew it was going to be your family.”

Gracy said they all have vivid memories of caring for Caleb and his siblings that day. She told them how the team worked the night shift and were preparing to leave that morning when they received a call about a serious accident with several pediatric patients.

“I began calling every doctor that I could find to come in to help you guys,” Gracy said. “It was pretty amazing to see all of those people working together. And the teamwork that went on that morning was incredible.”

Kirsten and Clint – Caleb’s sister and brother – arrived at the hospital first, where Shelly Morris, who was a nurse in pediatrics at the time, stayed with them.

Morris said: “What I remember about taking care of them was that Kirsten was very quiet but protective of her brother. Clint would ask about their parents and Kirsten would tell him that it’s going to be okay. My heart broke for them because I knew their life had forever changed.”

Michelle Hooks, who is now the emergency room director at sister facility Medical City Plano, also remembered how she was taking care of Caleb’s brother Clint when Dennie, their late colleague, announced that another one was coming in and they needed a second set of hands. It was Caleb.

“I didn’t hear her say baby, but I went into the room and that’s when we saw Caleb. It was…wow,” Hooks said, choking up.

“I can still see the EMS people bringing you through the doors of our ER,” Gracy recalled. “I don’t think you understand the impact that you made on our lives that day. There’s not a Thanksgiving that goes by that we don’t think about you and your family.”

Janna Sullivan was a paramedic working in the ER in 2000 and explained that the procedure they used to save Caleb was uncommon back then.

“When you came in, you were cold and clamped down so we were having a hard time getting an IV,” she told Caleb. “We needed to give you medications to intubate you – to get the tube down your throat to help you breathe – and one of the physicians suggested that we do an IO (intraosseous infusion), which is into the bone.”

She said Dennie had done it before but was scared to perform the technique on Caleb. After some encouragement from the team and a quick prayer, she (Dennie) inserted the medication through the bone and they were able to intubate Caleb to help him breathe.

“I don’t know how to explain in words, but this is awesome that you’re giving this information to us,” Caleb said. “It’s special.”

“Thank you so much for reaching out to us. I don’t think we ever get this opportunity, and to have this 17 years later,” said Gracy. “The fact that we’re all still working together, and here you have come into our lives again, so thank you so much.”

Caleb lives in Utah and is hoping to meet his care team in person in North Texas. Watch the entire Skype interview of their reunion below. HCA Healthcare internal audience can view the video here.

Medical City McKinney is an affiliate of HCA Healthcare.

Image source: Caleb Electric Brain (@calebelectricbrain) video.  

About HCA Healthcare

HCA Healthcare, one of the nation's leading providers of healthcare services, is comprised of 183 hospitals and more than 2,300 sites of care, in 20 states and the United Kingdom. Our more than 283,000 colleagues are connected by a single purpose — to give patients healthier tomorrows.

As an enterprise, we recognize the significant responsibility we have as a leading healthcare provider within each of the communities we serve, as well as the opportunity we have to improve the lives of the patients for whom we are entrusted to care. Through the compassion, knowledge and skill of our caregivers, and our ability to leverage our scale and innovative capabilities, HCA Healthcare is in a unique position to play a leading role in the transformation of care.

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