Dale Johnson—radio host, family man and blood recipient—dutifully allows his granddaughters to paint his nails nearly every week. He doesn’t take the polish off, saying it serves as a reminder to never take life too seriously.
In March 2016, during a motorcycle ride to the grocery store, his life changed forever. While waiting at a stoplight in the turning lane, Johnson was hit by a young driver who didn't see him. The impact of the 2-ton car on Dale’s 700 pound motorcycle threw him off his bike. He waited in agony, reciting street addresses, names and statistics to stay conscious until the paramedics arrived. His injuries were so severe that he was losing blood as quickly as they could transfuse it. By the time paramedics were able to stop the bleeding with a tourniquet, Johnson had used several units of type O negative blood.
"I knew I would lose my leg as soon as I hit the ground," Johnson said. "It was twisted and my clothes were purple with blood."
Johnson woke up in the Intensive Care Unit. He could tell from the nod his wife gave him that his leg was gone. The doctor worked for nearly four hours repairing broken bones in his shoulder and legs and trying to piece together a dismembered artery, but his leg could not be saved. Fortunately, Johnson suffered no trauma to his brain or spine. During the time Johnson received treatment, from the accident site and in the hospital, his medical teams used more than 20 units of blood and several units of platelets to replace what he’d lost.
“There was a time I only had someone else’s blood in my body. I didn’t have any of my original blood. There’s something indescribable about knowing that,” Johnson said. “I remember thinking somewhere along the way more than 20 different people took time out of their day, made an appointment, and donated. And as a result of that commitment, they helped save my life. I am very thankful.”
Today, Dale has a new appreciation for blood donation, and hopes more people will consider becoming regular blood donors. Before the accident, Johnson had never experienced severe trauma. He'd broken his arms a couple of times as a child, but for the most part, he lived a fairly injury free life with his wife and children. He worked as a news director for KFOR for more than 30 years and had donated blood a handful of times.
“To a blood donor, it might seem like what you’re doing is insignificant because there is no connection to the person at the other end,” Johnson said. “Well, I’m that person. When you sit in the chair, squeeze that little ball and think about who you might help, just know it’s going to a real person and it does make a difference.”
He also hasn’t let his accident hold him back. He purchased a new motorcycle and stays active. Getting around takes him a little longer, but it didn’t stop him from meeting with the young man that hit him and forgiving him.