Please excuse our tardiness on this story, but we felt like it was one that needed to be retold, especially since it was likely lost among the tragic events in Boston and West, Texas last week.
Many people don’t know or have ever heard of Darius Johnson, a 6-foot-3, 293-pound Middle Tennessee State football player, but for one little girl, he’s her hero.
Last Monday, Middle Tennessee was hosting the Special Olympics and Johnson was helping out. Brittany Eyrich, a 10-year-old girl with autism and epilepsy, came up to Johnson and asked for a photo. That began a relationship that would take a scary turn only minutes later.
Eyrich was running in 100-meter dash when the hot temperatures sent her body into an epileptic seizure and sent Johnson into action.
Theresa Eyrich, Brittany's mother, and teacher Karen Godwin reached Brittany first, but the child needed to be moved to take her medication in private. Theresa Eyrich looked around, found Johnson watching intently and asked for his help. He scooped up the 130-pound girl and ran her to a private, cooler location so she could get the help she needed.
"I've never seen anyone have a seizure, so I just did whatever I could," Johnson told Adam Sparks, who covers the Blue Raiders for the Daily News Journal. "At the beginning of the day, that's not what I expected to be doing, helping a girl like that."
What’s more impressive about Johnson’s feat is that Johnson was in a walking boot from an ankle injury he suffered during a scrimmage the previous Saturday. But in that moment, when that little girl needed him, he pulled some of the straps off the boot, ignored the pain and ran as fast as he could.
"I couldn't feel my ankle anyway with that boot on," Johnson told the paper. "And I was just worried because they said they had to move her somewhere or it could be bad. I picked her up and ran as fast as I could to find a place to put her so she could take her medicine."
Brittany recovered from the seizure. Theresa Eyrich called Johnson to thank him for helping out her family. Johnson in turn invited the family to the Blue Raiders’ spring game, but they had a previous engagement. So, the university sent Brittany an autographed picture of Johnson to go with the picture they had taken earlier in the day.
"I called (Johnson) and thanked him from the bottom of my heart. He didn't have to do what he did," Theresa told the paper. "Those seizures can get bad if she isn't treated, but we couldn't carry her. If he didn't jump in there and help, it could have gotten very bad very quickly.
"And I just thought he should get the gratitude that he deserves."
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