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Published January 18, 2011, 12:00 AM

Teachers wear ‘Jeans for Jodell’

Fundraiser will support Fargo teacher who suffered a stroke
The Johnson family was enjoying a vacation in the Twin Cities area when Jodell Johnson told her husband she “didn’t feel right.”

By: Wendy Reuer, INFORUM

The Johnson family was enjoying a vacation in the Twin Cities area when Jodell Johnson told her husband she “didn’t feel right.”

She couldn’t explain it but kept saying something was not right. Moments later, she was unresponsive as paramedics whisked her away to the hospital.

At age 40, the Fargo teacher and mother of two young girls suffered a stroke, a hemorrhage in the upper part of her brain stem.

Her husband, Ruel Johnson, said it is called the worst type of stroke because it affects the small area of the brain that controls motor skills, eye movement, swallowing and breathing.

The stroke happened on Sept. 6. Johnson was eventually transferred out of the Minneapolis hospital to Elim Rehab and Care Center, where she is in constant need of medical care.

Fellow teachers are now stepping up to help the Johnson family pay for medical bills and other expenses. The money would also help send Johnson to the Craig Institute in Denver for more rehabilitation.

She underwent eye surgery on Friday and had a four-hour procedure on Monday at Sanford Health to help eliminate a bed sore. Johnson still is unable to move voluntarily.

“She’s showed some movements and motions, but nothing has been consistent,” Ruel Johnson said.

He said communication with Jodell has been mostly through her eyes so far. A wink constitutes “yes” or “no.”

Johnson is a Title I Math teacher at Jefferson Elementary in Fargo and taught grades three, four and five.

In order to raise $5,000 for the Johnson family, teachers began “Jeans for Jodell,” said Jefferson teacher Deb Wimmer.

Through “Jeans for Jodell,” teachers and school staff in all Fargo School District facilities can donate money to wear jeans to work. It can be for one day, one week or even for one month through Feb. 11, depending on the school’s policy.

The Dakota Medical Foundation has pledged to match the funds raised dollar for dollar up to $5,000.

“Every school is being creative,” Wimmer said.

Wimmer has faith that her fellow teachers will be able to reach the $5,000 goal. She said Johnson’s story has resonated with many people.

“It’s been interesting getting phone calls from people, people I don’t know,” Wimmer said. “There are some good stories from so many people who don’t even know the family but want to help.”

Ruel Johnson wrote on the CaringBridge site that their two daughters, Annika, 3, and Ellika, 5, are doing well. He keeps family and friends updated with regular journal entries at www.caringbridge.org/visit/jodelljohnson.

How to help

Donations can be made at www.dakmed.org/lendahand. Click on “Donate,” “Individual/Family Funds,” and select “Jodell Johnson Benefit Fund.” Or mail your donation to Jodell Johnson Benefit, Bremer Bank, 1444 45th St. S., Fargo, ND 58103.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Wendy Reuer at (701) 241-5530