A Dad’s Gift to His Son

Before Billy Johnson was even born, his family found out that his internal organs were displaced and he suffered from four major heart defects. Billy, now 12, and his family are staying at our House near Egleston while they recover from Billy’s second kidney transplant that took place on February 18, 2020.  Mark Johnson, Billy’s father, was his donor this time.

Billy needed a new kidney after BK virus and the Epstein-Barr Virus, destroyed both his transplant kidney from mom, Molly Johnson, and his remaining one, a year after his first transplant at the age of 4.

Billy bravely fought off both viruses. His treatment led them to the children’s hospital in Cincinnati, where Billy participated in a clinical trial to clear the viruses which caused him to be on dialysis since 2017.

February 18 is a special date because it is also his aunt’s birthday, who promised Molly to always watch over him right before she passed away unexpectedly. The second kidney transplant surgery was successful. Billy and Mark are doing well and will continue recovering for the next several weeks.

“Billy is doing great,” Molly says. “I had to get him to stop running up and down the halls of Atlanta Ronald McDonald House just yesterday.”

Billy is glad to have his sister, Annie, staying with him. “It means a lot to him to be able to have his family there during this time,” Molly says.

Billy was diagnosed with Heterotaxy Syndrome when his mother was 20 weeks pregnant. He received a heart transplant as an infant to repair four complex congenital heart defects at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta — Egleston when their journey at the Ronald McDonald House began.

“Our days at the Ronald House have been the best days of our lives,” Mark says. “You didn’t worry about anything. You just get there and Ronald took care of everything else.”

The family’s favorite part about staying with Atlanta RMHC is creating bonds with staff members and Betty Lou, our Chief Happiness Officer and certified therapy canine.

“Billy feels at home at the Ronald McDonald House and really loves Betty Lou,” Molly says. “Atlanta Ronald McDonald House is truly our home away from home. The financial implications of over 400 nights is a huge burden that we don’t have to worry about bearing.”

With the Coronavirus pandemic, the Johnsons do not know when they will return home to North Carolina.

“In the middle of all the craziness right now, Atlanta Ronald McDonald House Charities is still here, and we’ve never once thought that we weren’t going to be cared for here,” Molly says.