OKLA. CITY —
Lauren Johnson was diagnosed with a congenital heart defect at age 3 and severe pulmonary hypertension by age 11.
High blood pressure in the lungs is called pulmonary hypertension (PH), a chronic and life-changing disease that can lead to heart failure if left untreated, according to the Pulmonary Hypertension Association. Symptoms include shortness of breath and dizziness and fatigue. The severity of symptoms usually correlates with the progression of the disease.
PH affects people of all ages, races and ethic backgrounds. Risk factors make some people more susceptible.
In 1989, Jim and Melissa Johnson moved their family to Edmond. Instead of allowing this incurable disease define her, Lauren made it her mission to live life to the fullest and make a difference along the way. She ascended through the Edmond Public Schools system and was a student at Memorial School before she transferred to Jones. She was prom queen her senior year and was an active member in Meadowood Baptist Church’s youth group.
She was a Sigma Kappa at the University of Central Oklahoma where she was a student for two years before she transferred to Southwestern Oklahoma State University in Weatherford.
Lauren dreamed of becoming an art teacher and although she knew she could never have kids of her own she wanted to have a ranch for foster children.
In 2008 and 2009, her family held fundraisers called “Painting a Stroke of PHenomenal Hope” in which she raised more than $25,000 for the PH Association. In 2010, she received the first Outstanding Young PH Citizen Award at a national conference.
On April 4, at the age of 21, Lauren died from complications related to PH. Her dad said many with PH live 2-7 years. On April 8, a celebration of life service for her was held at the First Presbyterian Church of Edmond.
Lauren wrote a message titled “I’m Free.” In part she wrote: “My life’s been full, I’ve savored much, good friends, good times, a loved one’s touch. Perhaps my time seemed all too brief, don’t lengthen it now with undue grief. Lift up your hearts and share with me — God wanted me now: He set me free.”
The PH Association invites area residents to walk with them Saturday at the Oklahoma City Zoo, 2000 Remington Place. Local walkers will join “Team Phenomenal Hope” for a nationwide day of action. Lauren’s mom was a driving force behind the local event.
Organizers say the event is not a race: To walk a mile in a pulmonary hypertension patient’s shoes you will have to slow down. You may even have to stop and smell the roses. The one-mile walk is designed to help raise awareness about the life-threatening disease.
“We lost our battle to PH,” Jim Johnson said. “A lot of the people who will be walking still have hope; they need hope.”
Registration will begin at 7:30 a.m. Walkers must be done before the zoo opens at 9 a.m.; the walk wristband lets walkers stay and enjoy the zoo. Cost for the walk is $2 for adults and $1 for children 11 and under. A processing fee will include the wristband entrance to the zoo. Zoo passes will not work for the walk.
Donations in Lauren’s honor may be made to the Pulmonary Hypertension Association at www.phassociation.org/Memorials, Make-A-Wish at www.wish.org/ways-to-help/giving/donate, the SWOSU Art Education program or to the Johnson Family c/o Kilpatrick Bank of Edmond to further Lauren’s dream of a foster ranch: Kilpatrick Bank P.O. Box 2850 Edmond OK, 73083 (405) 341-8222.
For more information about PH, visit phassociation.org.
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