Jennifer and Rick Johnson Jr. hold their children, 5-year-old Ricky III and 2-year-old Caleb. The Suffolk family is grateful for the Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters after Caleb was treated there for a hole in his heart.

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Weekend event to benefit CHKD

Published 9:32pm Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Holly Ball fundraiser being held this weekend to benefit the Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters is helping families like Caleb Johnson’s.

Now a happy, smiling, waving 2-year-old, Caleb has Down syndrome and was born with a hole in his heart and only one valve. Initially hoping to delay surgery until he was bigger and stronger, doctors decided just to monitor Caleb.

But when he was 3 months old, Caleb developed a heavy cough one day. Hoping he just had a cold, parents Rick and Jennifer Johnson took him to his cardiologist as a precaution.

It turned out Caleb was going into cardiac arrest.

Caleb was taken to CHKD and admitted on Feb. 16, 2011. That was the beginning of a seven-week stay in the hospital that included a surgery to repair the hole and split the one valve into two.

These days, Caleb is doing well. On Wednesday night, he alternated between playing with a drawing toy with his dad and sitting in his mom’s lap.

Though he will likely have to have another surgery in about eight to 10 years, Caleb’s life was saved by CHKD, his parents believe.

“We owe them his life — literally,” Rick Johnson said.

Despite their ordeal, Jennifer Johnson recalled seeing preschool-age children at the hospital who literally had lived their entire lives there.

“We’re one of the lucky ones,” she said.

Founded in 1896, CHKD is a charitable organization. It does not turn away any child based on the family’s ability to pay, but rather reduces its charges on a sliding scale based on the family’s income and helps determine eligibility for government insurance.

Last year, Caleb was one of 600,000 children treated at the hospital and its affiliated health centers, clinics and physicians.

This year is the 50th anniversary of the Holly Ball, which this year will benefit the Pediatric Cardiac Program that saved Caleb’s life.

Just in the last decade, the event has raised more than $500,000 for various areas of the hospital, including purchasing equipment, programs and services such as transport vehicle, rehabilitation pool, neonatal intensive care unit cribs and more.

Though tickets for Saturday’s event at the Norfolk Waterside Marriott are sold out, donations still may be made to the hospital by visiting www.chkd.org.

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