LifeLine flight nurse cautiously optimistic mother of two

As a LifeLine Neo-Natal and Pediatric flight nurse Misty Johnson has seen the tragedy of accidents involving children. That makes her a little extra cautious with her two boys.

By IU Health Senior Journalist T.J. Banes

When Misty Johnson and her husband of 16 years, Jeremiah recently built a new home one of the first things they did was add a fence around the pond.

“I think seeing other people’s misfortunes has helped me prepare my boys more,” said Johnson, the mother to Jack, 7 and Parker, 5.

Johnson knows that in an instant, lives can change. In addition to working as a LifeLine Pediatric Nurse she works as a PICU shift coordinator for Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health.

She has seen so many every day situations turn into nightmares.

There have been drownings and near drownings, children who have become paralyzed when a cartwheel goes bad, youngsters struck by cars, and freak accidents where a child is hit by a falling limb or chokes on baby carrots. She’s treated curious toddlers who accidentally ingested citronella or swallowed buttons, batteries and magnets.

Johnson started working at Riley Hospital 21 years ago with a degree in biology. She worked five years in the bio-chemical genetics lab and then completed the accelerated nursing program at IUPUI. She started her nursing career as a PICU nurse and never left.

“It was honestly about three and a half years ago that I had enough confidence to follow my passion to become a critical care transport nurse. Once I was able to predict what a physician in the room would say or need, then I felt I was ready to interview for LifeLine,” said Johnson. “I never intended on doing both jobs but I couldn’t imagine not working at Riley.” She works there two days a week and one day with LifeLine.

She said working in PICU helped prepare her for her role with LifeLine.

“I worked side by side with all the nurses and physicians and having that rapport with them really helps me understand the magnitude of the job,” said Johnson. “When I’m outside the hospital working with LifeLine I can actually hear their voices in my head and I know I can pick up a phone at any time and they trust me when I say what I’m seeing.”

As a mother, Johnson knows both her roles with IU Health require parental trust.

“I come in as a stranger, only have a few minutes to spend with these parents before I take their child away from them on what could be one of their worst days so giving me that responsibility is an honor,” said Johnson. She tells about one young patient who was scared and she held her hand the entire flight.

“She wasn’t sick enough that I needed to be constantly working on her.

As a mom I am a better flight nurse because I knew what she needed right then was to have me hold her hand and tell her everything would be ok,” said Johnson.

“It’s slightly an adrenaline rush working in a challenging environment and requires a lot of critical thinking. Kids have an innate will to fight and survive and easily my best days are seeing the kids get better and get up and play,” said Johnson.

She carries that adrenaline rush into her free time. She and her husband have enjoyed hiking Mount Kilimanjaro and have camped in the Serengeti.

So what do her boys think of their mom’s job as a flight nurse?

“If you ask them what mommy does they’ll tell you I take care of sick babies and children. I hope they see me working and will learn to follow their passion,” said Johnson. They also love visiting the heliport and sitting in the back of the ambulance. Jack dressed up like a LifeLine pilot for Halloween one year and his brother was a fire truck.

“I try really hard not to be overly protective,” said Johnson. “This job has taught me how short and precious life is and not to sweat the small stuff.”