by Carol Harvey
On Aug. 13, 2021, Nia Johnson reached out to me once again with a progress report on her son Sam’s medical condition. The San Francisco Bay View newspaper originally published Sam’s story seven months ago, Feb. 25, 2021. Since then, readers have been asking how this beautiful young boy is doing.
The short answer is: Not well.
Sam and his family need help. Friends have set up a GoFundMe page for the Johnson family.
On Feb. 8, 2021, 10-year-old Sam Johnson was diagnosed with an extremely aggressive brain tumor at the base of his brain, called Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG). Sam and his mom and dad were residents of Treasure Island, a Naval Base and San Francisco neighborhood located in San Francisco Bay.
Radiation treatments at UCSF last winter caused his brain tumor to shrink slightly. However, the glioma has begun to grow again. His parents are desperately seeking to enroll him in an Immune Drug Therapy Trial, hoping his immune system will kick in and give him and his family more time together and maybe even completely eliminate his tumor.
“Sam is a sweet, kind and thoughtful boy who loves animals (especially dogs), rainbow sprinkled cupcakes and Star Wars.”
Sam’s glioma causes “terrible headaches,” nausea and progressive memory loss. Facial weakness makes it difficult for him to chew, swallow and talk. Unable to balance, stand or walk, Sam is confined to a wheelchair full time.
In the face of this adversity, Nia reports that her son remains cheerful. His parents and former Island neighbors report that “Sam is a sweet, kind and thoughtful boy who loves animals (especially dogs), rainbow sprinkled cupcakes and Star Wars.” He wants people to call him Sam.
Nia and Eric Johnson are devastated at the thought of losing their beloved only child and son. Sam’s GoFundMe page tells us that Sam’s Mom has had to stop working to take care of Sam full time. Meanwhile, hospital bills and living expenses continue to mount. The request for help is URGENT and needed NOW!
Last February, Nia sent me information about gliomas. Adults between 45 and 65 are more likely than children, like Sam, to develop this type of brain tumor. Risk of a Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG) increases with age. The exact cause is not known.
Inhabiting old Navy housing on Treasure Island is equivalent to fallout from a major nuclear event.
One huge risk factor is exposure to radiation. During the 56 years that the U.S. Navy operated radiation schools on Treasure Island, it saturated the groundwater and soil with radioactive objects, chemicals and heavy metals. The Navy’s decades-long EPA-mandated toxic cleanup of this landform in the middle of San Francisco Bay is well-publicized.
Living within five to 10 feet of remediation zones, the amount of daily radiation exposure received by the 1,300 to 2,000 Islanders inhabiting old Navy housing is equivalent to fallout from a major nuclear event. Islanders and their animals are at risk for – and developing – heart attacks, cancers, strokes, hair loss, skin lesions and a wide range of other illnesses.
A neighbor noticed that Sam’s dog, Casey, a “big white haired calm dog who rarely barked,” had developed large tumors while on TI. The dog got out through an open back gate and would wander at night “like a ghost. The tumors grew so huge that I thought they should mercifully put her down,” he said. “One was protruding from her side and the size of a football. Poor thing!”
Nia and Eric would be most grateful for any and all donations on behalf of their son, no matter how small. Most importantly, Nia and Eric would be eternally grateful for your ongoing prayers for Sam.
Please share this GoFundMe page with family and friends. If you want to learn more about Sam and how he’s doing, you can reach out to his Mom, Nia.
Thank you and God bless you for helping Sam!
Carol Harvey is a San Francisco political journalist specializing in human rights and civil rights. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.