The caregiver network
At 6 feet 3 inches, U.S. Army Sergeant Blake Johnson was an imposing force on behalf of Team Army during the 2015 Warrior Games. An instrumental performer in field, swimming, sitting volleyball and wheelchair basketball , Johnson, like many of his teammates, maintained laser-like focus on “medaling” and helped lead Team Army to first place overall in the this year’s games.
“Swimming is my favorite event,” said the 23-year-old Johnson, who suffers from multitrauma injuries, including a shattered leg from a car accident in Illsheim, Germany, where he worked on Apache helicopters in systems repair. At the games, Johnson, who relies on a cane for support much of the time, said he strained his shoulder playing wheelchair basketball, and was concerned about how he would fare in the swimming pool.
“I’m still going to swim,” he said during the Games. “I just don’t know if I am going to swim as well as I should, and I’ve got to see if it’s all right.”
Since his injuries three years ago, Johnson has relied on support from a network of individuals, from family and friends to physical therapists and, just as importantly, his service dog, Carlos, a 1-year-old Great Dane. A life-long animal lover, Johnson had dogs growing up and wanted one even when he was stationed in Germany. Following his accident, he carefully researched several breeds and found Carlos. A service dog is a type of assistance dog specifically trained to help people who have disabilities.
Johnson’s appearance belies the severe physical injuries he has suffered. Still, his recovery, like that of most injured service members, has been a long and difficult road.
“When he had his initial accident, his brother and I stayed for about nine months at Fisher House [Bethesda] to be with him,” said Blake’s mother, Theresa Johnson, who lives in Fort Hood, Texas. Johnson manages the Fort Hood location of Fisher House, a network of comfort homes that provide free lodging to military members and families receiving medical treatment. “We basically just tried to keep him motivated. He was getting ready to go to Special Forces, so we were just trying to get him back in the game. The Warrior Games have been really amazing for him, really just to keep him in the fight and not feel sorry for himself.”
Lisa Prasso, a physical therapist in Orthopedics & Rehabilitation at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, said it is evident that Johnson, a lifelong surfer and runner, has great talent as an athlete. Prasso has worked with Johnson, who is based in Bethesda, Maryland, since 2013.