Robert ‘Bubba’ Johnson: ‘I want to be a doctor... because they help me’

Updated: Jun. 1, 2019 at 1:38 PM CDT
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LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - Since birth, life for Robert Johnson, also known as Bubba, has been rough. Diagnosed with VATER Syndrome, he was born early with multiple birth defects and has had 28 surgeries in his young life. However, it wasn’t until dinner 2 years ago that everything changed. He was rushed to UMC in Lubbock, where his family was shocked to learn what doctors had discovered.

Dr. Thomas McGill, and Dr. John Fitzwater, both played a roll in this case at University Medical Center. "Young boys are not careful when they eat, and you bite down on a whole hot dog and try to swallow the thing hole, it's going to get stuck," explained Dr. McGill. "And that's what happened with him. And so Dr. Fitzwater recognized that and he dislodged the piece of meat, got it out. And then he did another dilation on him to open it up."

That's when doctors at UMC discovered that something wasn't right. Everybody knew that Bubba was born with multiple birth defects and that the most devasting for him and his family was in his bottom. That's because food goes in, but there was no way for waste to go out. So doctors in another city created an exit for that solid waste. However, that hot dog scare alerted doctors at UMC that one of his earlier surgeries elsewhere had not fixed the biggest problem.

"It had been reconstructed," explains Dr. McGill. "But it had shifted so that there are very specific muscles that allow you to control your bowel moments. And when you reconstruct this, this has to be put right in the middle of that muscle. So that wraps around it, and it gets squeezed on the go and squeeze and let go. On him it was out of the out of the center, it was away from that muscular complex had to be put back into the muscular complex. And that's the second operation that Dr. Fitzwater did on him."

Now, doctors have Bubba on a strict medication plan, something he says works. "It makes me feel better and lets me run and use the restroom."

And he enjoys the things that they allow him to do. "We watch movies or play football in the backyard or go on the trampoline," says Bubba.

Thanks to UMC doctors, his daily routine has been changed, for the better. "Yeah it changed his life," says his mom. "Like he can play sports and everything. He can do normal life things now and play and he's a happy kid."

“On a scale of one to 10. It’s a solid 10 or 11, that his life has been improved with this operation, with these multiple operations, and in the care that we can give to these babies that can be born with so many different defects,” agrees Dr. McGill.

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