Eddie Johnson has not let losing both his legs as a tot stop him from leading a full and productive life.
The 40-year-old today has a successful bee pollination business, is happily married to a former Manteca High schoolmate, and the couple has five children.
Johnson — the grandson of Ed and Dolores Cardoza of Manteca — survived losing both legs when he was about to turn 2 years old. With their support he has gone on to beat all odds to lead a normal and productive family life.
Johnson developed a blood disease, Purpura Fulminans, that caused the blood in his legs to coagulate turning his toes and limbs black and requiring the amputations to save his life after a case of Chicken Pox left him with the rare blood disorder. He was in the Oakland Children’s Hospital and in an ICU unit for seven months. The disease had caused rapid bruising and continuous bleeding.
The Manteca community rallied around the young Johnson as residents donated 140 pints of blood and contributed to a trust fund that was set up at a local bank. The youngster had to endure four operations including vascular surgery and skin grafts in the effort to save his life and to treat the issue before gangrene forced the amputations.
His mother Linda said in a news article of the day, “I believe he understands that he doesn’t have any legs and I also think that he accepts it.”
When he was about 12 his good friend Anthony Anacieto engineered a bicycle for him using a three-wheeler bike for the frame and a hand crank to serve as its pedals from above the fork where the handle bars once set.
Now 40 years old he has quite the list of accomplishments from school to sports, marriage and family life and working every day in his bee business with some 300 hives that he hopes to expand to 600 hives next year. Johnson remembers his first experience with bees when he was 4 years old and being chased by them.
At Manteca High he lettered in wrestling after proving himself playing baseball and flag football at Lincoln Elementary School saying he had to run to first base on his hands. He added he was almost as fast as his quickest teammates. Wrestling as a Buffalo, he compiled a 33-10 record.
“I was really good,” he said.
Now everywhere he goes he finds someone who wants to wrestle him but says the strength in his arms is unforgiving and gives him a win in short order.
“Most coaches didn’t want me doing anything in sports because they were afraid I would get injured and they would get sued,” Johnson said. “They didn’t know how good I was and I would run like a monkey.”
Johnson Eddie currently coaches a class of youngsters in the Calaveras Youth Wrestling (CYW) group for their basics on the mat.
Johnson said growing up he learned to do everything with his arms although he finally got a wheel chair. He’s has gone through some 30 wheelchairs in his lifetime. He was fitted with leg prothesis in those early years but found it was easier to use his hands to get where he wanted to go – and actually get there faster.
He said he is awaiting the arrival of a new chair and keeps an older “work chair” for his outside work, keeping the newer one at home in the closet.
Johnson married Mayle Smith who had been a couple of years behind him at Manteca High. They now have five children – three girls and two boys – from 7 years old to 18. Mayle worked at Wells Fargo Bank in Manteca for many years but now is a social worker in Calaveras County. Johnson has been “Mr. Mom” staying at home and raising their children and working in his bee pollination business.
Their wedding thank you from their October 29, 2006 wedding reads:
We laugh with each other, Live for each other and
Will love each other for life, and today we have joyfully promised
To join as husband and wife.
Our life time together lies ahead,
Hand-in-hand we’re on our way!
And we’re grateful for
Your good wishes.
And, your presence here today.
Eddie and Mayle
The children include Edward, 18; Elizabeth, 16; Emily, 14; Noah, 11 and Adam, 7.
“We go camping. We do sports, and we make it a point to sit around the dinner table together every night and talk,” he said.
Noah, 11, works in the bee business with his dad, however Edward – the oldest son – has an allergy to the bees and has to keep his distance from the hives.
Referring to his Grandma and Grandpa Cardoza, he said, “I couldn’t have survived without them. And, I’m sure I will never be able to repay them unless I win the lottery.”
To contact Glenn Kahl, email email@example.com.