Where Are They Now? - Johnny Webb

Since being featured in Sweet Charity in 2014, Johnny Webb has grown into a healthy and active little boy. Good Shepherd helped him get there.

 “Tomorrow marks 6 years ago. The one day of the year I dread, sob and just try to forget. Everyone knows Johnny’s story but very few people know the WHY…” Tara Webb posted that on her Facebook page on October 23, 2018. The “why” referred to the perilous medical journey her unborn son was about to embark on six years ago when Tara’s water broke at 20 weeks, putting baby Johnny’s life in jeopardy. Tara managed to hold on to Johnny for a while longer, but at 27 weeks, just seven months into her pregnancy, things took a turn for the worse.

On December 11, 2012, Johnny Webb was delivered by cesarean section. He weighed 1 pound, 11 ounces and was 13 inches long with skin so translucent you could see the veins just beneath the surface. You wouldn’t have known it to look at him, but a warrior was born. In the weeks and months to follow, Johnny would need that fighting spirit to stay alive. Six years later, and in the Webb household, December 11, Johnny’s birthday, is Warrior Day. Tara and her husband, Chris, have turned painful memories when Johnny spent the first 10 months of his life in hospitals, into a day of celebration. “Instead of us just mourning, we’re just so grateful to have a real live warrior,” says Tara. “The menu on this day for the little boy who once was an infant too weak and fragile to eat, is Johnny’s favorite foods: spaghetti and chocolate cupcakes.

“Instead of singing happy birthday, we sing happy warrior day,” says Tara.

Johnny spent the first five-and-a-half months in the neonatal intensive care unit of a local hospital. Each breath from his tiny underdeveloped lungs was a battle to survive. In May 2013, Johnny was transferred to the Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Hospital Emily Howatt Pliskatt Pediatric Unit in Bethlehem. For Tara and her husband Chris, the next five months challenged their emotional fortitude as the pediatric rehabilitation team focused on strengthening Johnny’s lungs and stamina so he could eat, suck and swallow. And, gain weight.

By the time Johnny went home he weighed 14 pounds, 4 ounces. Tara and Chris did therapy at home with Johnny, using skills taught to them by the Good Shepherd staff. Johnny still needed supplemental oxygen and had some feeding problems, but Good Shepherd had done its job well and Johnny was in remarkably good health. “What was super amazing to me was when he was discharged from Good Shepherd that winter, never once did he need to be hospitalized for sickness,” says Tara.

Johnny’s sensory problems with many foods lingered. To keep him from losing weight and help with the regeneration of his lungs, Tara fortified his diet with high calorie foods like avocados, mayonnaise and sour cream. “Now he eats everything in sight,” says Tara, rattling off a varied gastronomic list that includes cookies, chocolate milk, chicken, and waffles.

Looking at Johnny today as he races around the house playing with his brothers and sister, it’s hard to imagine he once was no bigger than a ruler. “He’s a daredevil, running and jumping,” says Tara. “He’s such a far cry from that wimpy little baby barely hanging on. Johnny is being raised to know what a fighter he is, and who is pivotal in that. Obviously Good Shepherd is in the center.”

Johnny loves Peppa Pig, dancing, swimming, and “cooking” in the play kitchen at school. Johnny also loves to draw and has amassed a small library of books filled with his colorful drawings. On a recent visit to the house, as Johnny and Chris played with a toy fire engine it was hard to tell who was having
the most fun. “He’s a mini-me,” says Chris with pride, noting that Johnny is very affectionate. “He likes kissing everybody and saying ‘I love you.’”

Johnny is getting ready to start kindergarten in the fall. While he is on track with most of developmental skills, one goal is to improve his comprehension and speech. “We never knew if he was going to be a productive citizen of society and be able to take care of himself,” says Tara, “but now we’re starting to see things come together. He’s very good with his social skills and he likes to do things himself.”

Chris and Tara remain close with Johnny’s therapists on the inpatient unit, and are grateful for all they did for Johnny and for them. “Johnny wouldn’t have been who he is today if didn’t go to Good Shepherd,” says Tara. “And the tools they gave us as parents really steered the train of Johnny’s success. They taught us to trust that he will get there, on his own time. And he has. Everything has just come together like they said it would.”