A generous gesture

Published 3:55 am Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Franklin’s Henry “Mickey” Johnson did a noble thing on Friday.

The 63-year-old Franklin man, during a ceremony to christen the new $7.2 million Nightingale Regional Air Ambulance, donated $1,000 toward the medical helicopter. Johnson had good reason. Twice, its crews saved his life.

When the International Paper retiree suffered a major heart attack in 2006, the then 59-year-old was declared dead at the doorstep of Southampton Memorial Hospital. Shocked back to life, he was flown to Sentara Norfolk General Hospital in 18 minutes.

The distance and morning Hampton Roads traffic would’ve never allowed Johnson to survive the trip by ambulance.

Then, in 2009, a pickup truck collided with the motorcycle Johnson was driving in Grandy, N.C., while returning from a vacation at the Outer Banks. Again, Nightingale flew him to the trauma center at Sentara Norfolk General. He broke five ribs, dislocated his shoulder and suffered a concussion.

Nightingale is a non-profit community mission. The program operates at a deficit of as much as $650,000 per year because Nightingale takes care of every patient, regardless of health insurance or ability to pay.

Every year, Nightingale flies an average of 700 critically ill and injured patients from accident scenes and outlying community hospitals.

Johnson is still here with his family and friends because of Nightingale. He will be forever grateful.