Going Where Few Have Gone Before

While working in the education Department of Keizer Permente C. Francis Johnson wrote and produced one of the first instructional videos that helped medical professionals deal with a little known killer disease surfacing world wide, AIDS
by: Photo by Bob Schoenberg/Regal Courier, C. Francis Johnson

C. Francis Johnson has lived in King City for the past two years. 'I'm a jazz nut,' she said. 'I'm crazy about New Zealand. I like to go to places that I don't know about.'

One of those places she didn't know about but was willing to go there, was in her past while working for Keizer Permente in Portland back in the early 1980s.

Sick patients were starting to show up in care facilities with a variety of symptoms that had doctors puzzled all over the world. It was urgent, they couldn't stay puzzled for long because the patients were dying at an alarming rate and quickly after first falling sick.

The doctors had very little idea of what was going on.

It was AIDS.

Johnson was in the education department for Keizer and has been a critical care nurse, nurse supervisor and was a nurse in the Navy back in the 50s and 60s.

She came to know what was being done about AIDS research in those early years of the pandemic and came up with an idea for putting all that was know about treating the disease and how to get that information to the nurses and doctors who could treat it.

Johnson and a producer began working on a program that could be presented on video for nurses and doctors to watch and learn what they need to know about a disease that was killing hundreds of thousands of people world-wide.

She knew exactly what she needed present the information in a most dramatic way, she enlisted the help of the very first AIDS patient admitted to a Portland hospital.

'The series of programs dealt with the experiences of Jim. He was diagnosed in 1982. The program was designed for health care providers and in that day and age, there wasn't much known about it.'

The taping was done with some urgency, not only to get the message out about the disease, but the leading actor in the series was hearing a ticking clock. Jim died in 1984 from complications of AIDS.

'He brought into sharp focus his fears as he faced certain death,' said Johnson of the collaboration. 'It also focused the fears of those who had to care for him until he died.'

The series of videos helped medical caregivers understand the reactions of one AIDS patient while at the same time helped them come to grips with their own fears of the disease.

'Jim was an absolutely delightful person. We all just loved him.'

Retired now, Johnson spends her time playing golf here in King City, kayaking on local rivers and traveling world-wide with friends through Elderhostel, and volunteers with the Oregon Zoo and Portland's Center State taking care of actors.

She and her husband lived for 30 years in Southwest Portland near Portland Community College. They had met while both were serving in the Navy and Later both worked for Keizer.