DENVER, Colo. (AP) – When seven men lifted a car off 3-year-old Josh Johnson last year and saved his life, his family members talked of how they hoped they could one day repay the debt to the good Samaritans.

And, in classic pay-it-forward manner, the opportunity came nearly a year later during the Brighton Turkey Trot race Nov. 20.

Josh Johnson’s mother, Karrina, a nurse, was running in the race when she came upon a man in his 50s seemingly having a heart attack. She performed CPR while another woman tried to help resuscitate the stranger.

The man, whose first name they later learned is Alphonso, started breathing again and survived. He was taken to Platte Valley Medical Center, where he was talking to doctors, said Brighton Fire Chief Mark Bodane.

“I can’t describe it,” Johnson said. “It’s a really good feeling . . . just returning the favor to someone in need.”

Josh Johnson was struck by a car Dec. 19 in the parking lot of the Wal-Mart at Interstate 70 and Evergreen Parkway in Jefferson County and dragged 9 feet.

He was with his grandmother, Joyce Johnson, when he darted away from her. He reached to snatch a penny off the pavement when he was struck by a small sedan.

Josh was on his back, pinned under the chassis of the car with his legs bent over his belly when the men in the parking lot saw or heard what happened and rushed over. The little boy was unconscious.

The men lifted the car as someone pulled the badly injured child out.

An off-duty firefighter who happened to be in the parking lot helped expedite the process of getting a helicopter to the scene, Karrina Johnson said. Josh was flown to Children’s Hospital in Aurora.

Had the men not immediately responded the way they did, Josh may not have survived, she said.

“Afterwards, they just disappeared into the crowd not expecting anything in return,” Johnson said. “It was amazing there were enough people who cared to help my baby out.”

Josh was gravely injured, with several broken ribs, cracked vertebrae, punctured lungs, a lacerated liver and severe burns on his legs that required skin grafts. He was in Children’s Hospital for a month before he returned home in a full-body cast.

His mother and older brother, Caleb, nursed him back to health, and today, he shows few signs of his injuries. He was watching cartoons recently before showing visitors his tiny blue Christmas tree and his toys. He parted his hair to reveal a large C-shaped scar where his scalp was torn away during the accident.

He proudly said his mother is a hero.

Johnson, a nurse at Kindred Hospital in Denver, was about a mile into the Turkey Trot when she saw a woman trying to resuscitate a man lying on the grass between the sidewalk and the street.

She told two police officers that she was a nurse and began performing CPR.

“It was kind of like I went into work mode,” Johnson said.

When paramedics arrived about four minutes later, she did chest compressions in between paramedics’ using a defibrillator.

“His heart kicked in,” Johnson said.

After paramedics left, she stood on the sidewalk for a few moments. Though she doesn’t know the man’s full name, and the Brighton Fire Department cited federal privacy rules in declining to release it, the city is trying to arrange a ceremony thanking her for the effort.

“I was standing there after everything was done. It was kind of surreal. I was thinking, did that just happen? Then I thought, what should I do next? I jogged through the race.”

– By Kirk Mitchell

(© Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)


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