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Beltzhoover native who always helps others now awaits transplant

They say Bey Johnson has a big heart.

Here in Pittsburgh, the Beltzhoover resident has been involved in any number of charitable causes, helping others in any way possible.

He was involved in a Knoxville middle school summer basketball program in the late ‘90s, when he served as basketball coach for two summers.

Johnson assists with the Kidney Foundation, American Heart Association, and the “Have a Heart, Help Heal a Heart” program.

“Have a Heart, Help Heal a Heart” is very near to Johnson. After all, he helped launch the program after what Johnson thought was “a stomach virus,” but that hospital visit last year revealed much more.

“It ended up being a virus,” Johnson told the New Pittsburgh Courier, “but it was a rhinovirus which attacks my heart, being that my immune system was already suppressed from my anti-rejection medication from my kidney transplant.”

Johnson, who’s complete name is Abeid Allimayu Johnson (but he’s known as “Bey”), underwent a kidney transplant on Christmas Day, 2008. The medication he takes as a result from the transplant allowed the new virus to attack Johnson’s heart. Doctors later revealed to him last year that he would need a heart transplant.

BEY JOHNSON, middle, with mother, Clarice Johnson, left, and Dana Lacher-Johnson, wife. Johnson is awaiting a heart transplant. (Photo by Rob Taylor Jr.)

“We started with IV medication that I was on in the hospital for about a month, and they then sent me home, but the medication wasn’t something you can live on,” Johnson said.

Currently, Johnson uses a heart pump. “It’s for the left side of my heart, it helps keep up with what the right side of my heart is doing.”

Johnson, the Carrick High School graduate, told the Courier he was listed as a “1A” on the transplant list in August. In effect, “if something comes available that’s a match for me, I’m one of the ones at the top of the list to get one.”

Johnson said the “1A” status fluctuates. After a period of time, he can be labeled “1B,” meaning others would take priority over him.

On Sept. 16, a fundraiser was held for #TeamJohnson at St. Benedict Center in the Hill District.

Friends and family members donned “Team Johnson Branded” T-Shirts in support of the man of the hour.

Johnson told the Courier his blood type is pretty common, so now it’s about, among other factors, heart size. Johnson stands well over six feet; thus, a shorter person’s heart may not be a match.

“My spirits are great,” Johnson said as he awaits a match and subsequent transplant. “I come from a family that is very deep rooted in its faith, so I feel blessed, regardless of the circumstances.”

Johnson said good news concerning a match could come in the next few months. But how would he know? “It seems like around Christmas or New Year’s is when things happen for me, I don’t know why,” he said.

Johnson received his heart pump on New Year’s Day, 2017. Thus, with less than three months until 2018, they say you never know what the New Year will bring.

“I’m feeling good, I get to go to cardiac rehab three days a week to work out a little bit, keep myself going,” Johnson said. “We’re hopeful, prayerful.”

(To donate to Bey Johnson’s go fund me account to help pay for medical bills, visit http://www.gofundme.com/b4kaz-helpaheart or to donate via check, mail to 540 E. Ohio St., Pittsburgh PA 15212. Make check to The Johnson Transplant Fund. More details can be found at teamjohnsonbranded.com.)


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