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Quadriplegic volunteer helps kids in Nebraska Medicine pediatrics unit

KETV Omaha logo KETV Omaha 4/24/2018
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Rachel Johnson really puts the "extra" in extraordinary. She volunteers in the pediatrics unit at Nebraska Unit, helping kids and families get through some of the toughest times.

"If you've ever met Rachel, you will know exactly what I mean when I say, 'You see her and your day is just going to light up." She brings this energy to the world that just cannot be compared with anything else. She has this outlook on life, she's active, and she gives her very best to everyone," said Nebraska Medicine nurse Luba Butsyak.

Rachel says she has spent a lot of time in the hospital herself and knows how important it is to have a good support system.

"Up until the age of 19 I was pretty healthy and active. Everything changed when I got into a car accident. I actually broke my neck and I am a quadriplegic. I had to go through over a year of in-patient therapy to get my life back on track, get my strength back and learn how I was going to take care of myself again. Going through that was just so hard. I can't even put it into words," Johnson said. "What made it better and kept me going was having people there with me to celebrate every single little accomplishment."

She says she wants to be able to give kids the same support, encouragement and love that she had.

"I love just being able to see kids like Jonathan smile and to take a break from everything going on here. Treatments aren't going on at the moment. We're just having fun and to be able to get that enjoyment in an environment where sometimes it feels like you've lost control, and maybe it's easy to become bored, upset or frustrated, to actually know that someone is taking the time to give you some enjoyment in your experience. I love the feeling of being able to do that for kids," Johnson said.

Apart from volunteering, Rachel also works and attends graduate school full time. Everyone at the hospital said Rachel makes life look easy.

"Despite the fact that she has her own challenges, she makes it look like there is no challenge. She makes our patients feel the same way, that there (are) no barriers. When Rachel is with the kids, its another day and it's going to be OK," Butsyak said.

"I just want to show them that no matter what you are going through, there are ways to overcome it," Johnson said.

Rachel will be starting a pediatrics internship at Nebraska Medicine in hopes of becoming a child life specialist.

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