Johnson family benefit scheduled for this month

A benefit supporting Rushford’s Linden Johnson family will be held at the Rushford American Legion on Saturday, Jan. 26. SUBMITTED PHOTO
By : 

 Friends and neighbors of the Linden Johnson family will have a chance to show their support in an upcoming benefit.

Johnson is a double amputee plagued by serious illness and mounting medical bill since 2015. Family members and friends organized the benefit, which will take place at the Rushford American Legion on Saturday, Jan. 26, 2019.

There will be a sloppy joe meal available for a free will donation beginning at 5 p.m. Also starting at 5 p.m. will be a silent auction, a wine pull, and a gun drawing, with tickets available at the benefit only. A live auction will begin at 7 p.m. Donations can be brought to the Rushford Legion the week of the benefit, or to Angela Rislove at American Family Insurance in Rushford. For more information or to donate, contact Robin Rislove at 507-450-1882 or Angela Rislove at 507-429-2337.

Linden Johnson was united in marriage to Heidi Rislove in 1978, and the couple raised three children, Erika, Nikki, and Adam in their beautiful country home just outside of Rushford.  Friends will tell you that Linden has always been a strong, hard-working man. He could fill pretty much every role at Badger Equipment in Winona – welder, machinist, foreman, as well other jobs such as construction and most anything you could ask him to do.

On Friday June 12, 2015, Linden came home from work telling Heidi of something unusual that had happened – he said he had bent down and felt something pop. Assuming it was his back, he went to see the chiropractor when Monday rolled around. Upon a second examination, she realized that his right leg felt cold to the touch, and she couldn’t find a pulse in his ankle.

Suspecting something serious, the Johnsons were sent to Gundersen Health System in LaCrosse, Wis. where an MRI determined the seriousness of his condition: there was an aneurysm, or blockage, behind his right knee, completely cutting off circulation to his foot. Further examination revealed additional aneurysms on either side of his groin, in his left leg, and on his heart. By the time he had reached the hospital, his right leg was already dying. Twelve years to the day after an aneurysm took his mother in her sleep, Linden lost his right leg.

The doctors determined that Linden had developed a blood disorder marked by the presence of lupus anticoagulants, meaning that his blood has a tendency to get too thick and form clots, blocking off circulation. At the time of his first amputation in 2015, stents, which make a path through a blockage, were placed in the locations of the other aneurysms. However, the stent in the left leg failed, leading to an increase in trouble over time.

Even after losing his leg, Linden maintained a positive attitude, ready and able to tackle any limitation that was put in his path. He had a prosthetic leg that he would wear when going out, but at home he got around just fine on his scooter, four-wheeler, and golf cart.

Despite the pain in his left leg, which was growing in intensity and becoming unbearable, Linden remained very active. In fact, he was out working in the yard this past summer when a branch scratched his leg. An injury is always something to monitor when you’re on a blood thinner, and the wound on Linden’s leg scabbed over but never healed quite right. With his left leg always secure inside of a thick boot to keep warm, no one in his family realized that an infection was hard at work.

Mid-December the family noticed that Linden wasn’t sleeping well and wasn’t eating as he should. Knowing that her fairly stubborn husband wouldn’t want to cause anybody any trouble, Heidi enlisted the help of her children to get him to go into the doctor.

On Dec. 14 they brought Linden to Gundersen, where a cursory examination led to a team of doctors rushing in, revealing the urgency of the situation. “We didn’t realize how sick he was,” Heidi recalls. The infection fortunately had not entered his bloodstream, but was wreaking havoc on his kidneys, which were functioning at 6 percent at the time he was admitted. Linden was administered an emergency dialysis, which fortunately caused the kidneys to resume functioning on their own. The doctors then attempted to stabilize Linden in order to perform surgery on his left leg.

The initial surgery took Linden’s left leg below the knee, but after several successful days of rehab they determined a higher cut was necessary to stave off the infection. The Johnsons spent both Christmas and New Year’s at Gundersen. Heidi was able to watch the fireworks off of Granddad’s Bluff through the window of the hospital, and the couple was “kinda glad to see 2018 disappear.”

After completely closing off the site of the amputation, Linden was sent home with a wound VAC to help with the healing process. Upon returning home, Linden was very glad to have a cheeseburger and fries, which he considered a vast improvement over the meals of the previous month. The Johnsons hope their daughter Erika, a nurse, will be able to help with some of the details of recovery, but they plan on regular stops down to the Rushford Clinic to check what needs checking.

Moving forward, the Johnsons feel a sense of relief that the worst is behind them. The increasing pain in the left leg that Linden had been struggling with for months is now a thing of the past. Linden keeps track of his medications and is learning how to deal with the new pain of healing as he gets accustomed to life as a double-amputee, “One day at a time- that’s always been my thing,” Linden says soberly.

When he learned of the upcoming benefit, Linden didn’t know what all the fuss was about. “There are a lot of people less fortunate than me,” he says, his heart going out to friends and family that suffered much over the holidays. “He is a giver, not a taker, so he doesn’t always accept help well,” smiles Heidi. “He didn’t want to be a burden to me, so I have to remind him ‘That’s not how it works, honey.’ We said for better or for worse. I’m just happy to still have him here.”

“Tell ya what – she got me through it,” Linden says, looking to his bride of 40 years. “The kids, the grandkids, even the dog had something to do with it.” Gratitude has become a major component of Linden’s outlook on life. He praises his doctors and nurses, who apparently never had a dull moment when caring for him, “I can’t say enough about them.” Friends have come through time and again, helping out where needed, such as when they came together to build a ramp for the front of the Johnson home. When people ask how he’s doing, he says to tell them, “I’m okay. I have the greatest family and friends a guy could ever ask for, and I’ve been given another day to enjoy them. It’ll get better every day now.” 


As Erica’s best friend, I truly gained a second family in the Johnson’s. Linden and Heidi are incredible parents and I don’t know of any others who could handle life’s struggles in the humble way they have. I love you all and y’all are always in my prayers.