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Meet the Johnsons

Steve Johnson is a dedicated husband and father of six children. He and his wife, Sharell, have been together for 25 years. Originally from Oakland, Steve and Sharell moved to Turlock, CA to raise their family. Usually, on the quieter side, Steve lights up when he sees his young sons or plays with his granddaughter. Sharell is a warm and devoted woman who is not only a mother and wife but a resilient force to be reckoned with. Together, Steve and Sharell share a love that has carried their family through the most harrowing ordeal of their lives.

In 2017, Steve was hospitalized for severe shortness of breath. Doctors discovered Steve had pneumonia, a severe infection, and an enlarged heart. For five years, Steve was in and out of the hospital, constantly trying to get a grasp on his unpredictable condition.

In 2022, after receiving a pacemaker, Steve’s health seemed to stabilize. He and his family had even planned to go to Hawaii for a cousin's wedding. Just days before the trip, Steve began to experience pain in his stomach and was admitted to the nearest hospital. Sharell wanted to cancel the trip, but her husband assured her he would be fine on his own, she should go to Hawaii. The next day, Sharell reluctantly boarded a plane with her children.

On the family’s first morning in Hawaii, Sharell awoke to several missed calls. Steve had suddenly gone into cardiac arrest and the doctors needed Sharell’s permission to perform emergency surgery. Panicked and afraid, Sharell got on the first flight back home. She prayed the entire journey home, begging to be able to hug the love of her life one more time. When she arrived at the hospital, Steve was alive and in a medically-induced coma. The only way to save him, doctors said, was a heart transplant.

While Steve was fighting for his life in the hospital, Sharell was fighting to keep herself and her family afloat. Every day, Sharell commuted over 200 miles between home, work, and the hospital to see her husband. When Steve was finally transferred to Stanford for the transplant, the already overwhelmed and exhausted Sharell was told that she would have to relocate to Santa Clara County for three months. Luckily, a social worker at Stanford connected Sharell to JW House.

“When they moved Steve here, I couldn’t come every day. And our funds were just depleting… I wouldn’t have been able to be there for him if it wasn’t for JW House. This place has been a true blessing,” Sharell said.

For weeks, Sharell would bring her family to Santa Clara to visit Steve. They found respite at JW House. Sharell was able to relax in the Day Use Room or on the patio outside. Her children enjoyed playing in the JW House backyard and munching on homemade yummies provided by our volunteer community. JW House became a place of hope and joy for the Johnsons.

After a few weeks, Steve was ready to be discharged! This happy news brought a new challenge with it - Steve had to be close to Stanford for observation. While sharing her worries with a volunteer over dinner, Sharell found out that JW House also has an extended stay program.

The family was overjoyed! After a successful heart transplant, Steve was able to leave the hospital and move into an Extended Stay Apartment. With local, affordable accommodations, Sharell was able to confidently support her family. And what’s more, Steve was able to heal surrounded by the lights of his life, his wife and kids.

They stayed with JW House for 9 weeks.

Today, Steve and Sharell are back home in Turlock with the rest of their family.  Steve will return to Stanford periodically to keep an eye on his new heart. Sharell and her kids can’t wait to come back to JW House any time Steve has an appointment!