Addie Johnson, 6, and Eric Cruea, 19, were named as the poster child and poster adult, respectively, Monday for this year’s Ernie Blankenship Memorial Radio-Telethon for the benefit of the Highland County Society of Children and Adults at Merchants National Bank.
Each year, the Hillsboro and Greenfield Rotary Clubs organize the radio-telethon to support the Highland County Society for Children and Adults, which provides for the medical needs of Highland County residents when other help is unavailable.
The Hillsboro portion of the telethon will be held Wednesday, March 29 at the Hillsboro Orpheum from 7-9 p.m. The Greenfield event will be held at McClain High School on the same date at the same hours.
“Eric was always a very bright child who had really good grades, and then he got to the sixth grade and I saw his grades just plummet,” said Carissa Cruea, Eric’s mother. “He would hand me something, and he wouldn’t let go of it, and I thought this isn’t right, so I called the doctor.”
Medical tests revealed that Eric was having seizures, and he has been diagnosed with generalized epilepsy. He also has Marfan syndrome that affects his connective tissue and Asperger’s syndrome, a condition that causes difficulties in social interaction and nonverbal communication.
“He suddenly began having the types of seizures that can cause sudden epileptic death,” said Cruea.
With help from the Highland County Society for Children and Adults, Eric was equipped with a bed bag and a device similar to a watch that follows his body rhythms and alerts to problems.
“Two days after we got this, the alarm is just going off,” said Cruea. “If it hadn’t been for Patty [Day, executive secretary of the Highland County Society for Children and Adults] and these tools, I would have lost Eric because he had 45 minutes of seizures, and he couldn’t breathe.”
Cruea said she first called the Highland County Society for Children and Adults in November of 2022. “Because of the society and this watch and that bag, he’s still sitting with me here today,” she said. “There is no amount of money or thanks I could ever give back.”
Addie Johnson was born with three heart conditions, and after several hospital visits she was found to have a condition called neurogenic bowel dysfunction caused by damage to her nervous system that results in an inability to receive the signal that she needs to go to the bathroom.
“She had a tube placed inside her belly button that allows her to go to the bathroom,” said Jessica Johnson, Addie’s mother. “It takes about two hours every day after school.”
In spite of her condition, Addie enjoys normal childhood activities. “She shows goats, she rides horses, and you would never think that anything was wrong with her by looking at her,” said Johnson.
Johnson first called the Highland County Society for Children and in February of 2022.
She said conditions like Addie’s can be difficult to diagnose. “You have to learn how to advocate for your child because doctors are also human, and they can make mistakes, but at the end of the day you are home with your child and you know how your child acts and functions on a daily basis, so you know if they are not acting like themselves or if something is wrong,” she said.
Reach John Hackley at 937-402-2571.