LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Aiden Johnson is wasting no time deciding his future. He's already spent half his life inside Norton Children's Hospital (NCH) as a patient. Now, he's on the fast track to a career that could put him alongside the very people who helped save his life.
He was diagnosed with Leukemia at 3 years old and then again at 8 years old.
"All I remember is sitting in the hospital bed, getting poked with needles, stomach aches, nausea. I would live day by day," Johnson said.
Norton Children's is Johnson's home away from home. The doctors and nurses - his extended family.
"While I was there, they'd just sit and talk to me and talk about common interests, like music," Johnson said.
Little did the staff know the impact they were making in those moments.
"It's made me who I am now and who I want to become," he said.
Johnson's no stranger to giving back. His family created Aiden's Legacy in 2013, gifting his love of LEGOs to pediatric cancer patients, helping them financially, and donating hundreds of thousands of dollars for needed equipment and upgrades for Norton Children's Cancer Institute.
But just recently, the 18-year-old took it a step further by passing a Certified Nursing Assistant exam, before his senior year of high school.
"I'm not surprised," Frances Price, a patient navigator with Norton Children’s Cancer Institute, said.
She's been at Johnson's side since the beginning.
"When I heard he was going to be a CNA, I thought, oh my gosh, that's just amazing. This man is such a warrior and everything he's been through, and he still wants to give back," Price said.
It's just one step in his journey to becoming a pediatric oncology nurse.
"I want to do more one on one with children. I know I'll be sticking them with needles and doing all the things they hate but as a person who's been there, in their shoes, I think that could be really beneficial to them," Johnson said.
His parents couldn't be prouder.
"Those people are special. To have a job, with the highs and lows, it just blows my mind. Personally, I couldn't do it. To see kids on their best day and then maybe not even be there the next day, they have huge hearts, those nurses and doctors. He wants to do that? I'm all in," Jason Johnson, his father, said.
Johnson passed his CNA exam through the Prosser Career Education Center, in New Albany, and plans to go to Bellarmine University for his nursing degree.
He still finds himself at Norton Children's, like many pediatric cancer survivors who face lifelong side effects. Johnson was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes on July 2. But one day, he hopes to return to the oncology floor, not as a patient, but as an employee, working next to the same doctors and nurses who helped him get through the toughest years.
"He will have a fan base following him," Price smiled.
To date, Aiden's Legacy has donated $400,000 to NCH and purchased a child life therapy dog for the cancer unit.