October 8, 2019

SPRING VALLEY, Ohio - "I'm alive! and just look!" said former Spring Valley Township trustee Wendell "Wendy" Johnson as he watched friends and neighbors waiting to board the Community Blood Center Bloodmobile parked in front of the Spring Valley Township Fire Department.

It was Saturday morning, Oct. 5 of the annual Potato Festival, but the Tater Trot Run and Potato Car Races could wait.  They were donating blood to support Wendy in his battle against heart failure and cancer.

Wendy is a lifelong Spring Valley resident, Vietnam veteran, and farmer who served as a township trustee for more than 20 years. He greeted donors with hugs, handshakes, and his trademark wise cracks.

Wendy cupped his hands to demonstrate the "coffee cup" size of the LVDA pump that was surgically attached to the bottom of his failing heart at the Cleveland V.A. Hospital in January. "I asked my doctor what caused this, and he said, it was classic Agent Orange," the herbicide blamed for damaging the health of a vast number of Vietnam veterans.

"They told me I had no more than a year to live without it," said Wendy, who was well enough to walk out of the hospital three weeks after receiving the pump. "I was really doing good, then they found the cancer and that set me back a whole lot."

He was diagnosed with rectal cancer.  Surgery was not an option because of his heart condition so he began radiation and chemotherapy treatments.

Katy Anderson was one of Wendy's friends who donated Saturday in his honor. He affectionately calls her "my fourth daughter" and says, "she saved my life." He was fortunate she was visiting him in the hospital when he suffered a severe bleeding episode because of her immediate call for help.

"They gave me nine units of blood and two units of plasma," Wendy said.  He later talked to his friend Marcia O'Rourke about organizing a blood drive as a way of "giving it back."

"He said to me, 'I've used so much blood,'" said Marcia. "He asked me to shop around at the Fire Department and that's what I did. I was happy to do it for Wendy and the blood center. I know he's very appreciative of it."

The blood drive filled all appointments, and many were turned away. It totaled 38 donors, including 20 first-time donors and 31 units donated for 103 percent of collection goal.

Township staff members Rhonda Painter and Kitty Crockett were among the donors. "I worked with Wendy for 27 years," said Kitty, who Wendy calls "my sister."  "He's so optimistic," said Rhonda. "He's a great guy. He grows corn and gives it away, he's a good-hearted guy. He does a lot of great things."

"No problem," said Bob Jones after donating. "I'll do it again if they need me."

Wendy hopes his heart pump, successful cancer treatment, and blood donations will help him survive perhaps another 10 years.  The support he received Saturday was beyond measurement.

"You have to have two things: family and friends," he said. "If you don't, you're in trouble. I don't know what I'd do without them."