A Hollywood TV show, an Annapolis builder and a generous community come together because of one very special 16-year-old boy
Sixteen-year-old Wyzhir Johnson of Mardela Springs has always been known for his willingness to help others. This is especially true when it came to his family. So it was no great surprise to any resident of the 962 sq. ft. ramshackle house on Old School Rd. when Wyzhir was spending Christmas Eve of 2010 helping his grandfather cut and place new moldings for the house. When his mother, Patrice Goslee, asked her son one last time to put the work aside and join the yuletide festivities, Wyzhir replied that he’d be in right after he cut just one more molding.
If only he had listened to his mother.
While cutting that final strip of wood, his leather jacket got caught in the blade of the miter saw, hurling him backward as he desperately tried to free himself.
“As the miter saw came down on top of me, all I remember is seeing my hand just fly by,” said Wyzhir from his kitchen table. “I could feel the pain, yet I still couldn’t believe it.”
“In the middle of all this, Wyzhir was apologizing to the paramedics for making them miss Christmas Eve with their families,” Patrice added. “That’s my son.”
Though his doctors worked diligently to save Wyzhir’s left hand, the onset of a life-threatening infection forced him to make the most difficult decision of his young life.
“There was no way I was ready to give up my hand — especially after it had been successfully reattached and there was feeling in it,” said Wyzhir, whose tingling — and sometimes aching — sensations following the reattachment procedure actually came from the leeches the doctors had applied to stimulate blood flow to his fingertips. “But my body was actually rejecting my own hand, and the resulting infection was killing me, so I allowed them to remove my hand permanently in order to save my life.”
For those who believe in auras, Wyzhir’s is quite remarkable. He seems almost to radiate the warmth of a small sun, bathing the beholder in a glow of pure-spirited affection and sincerity that, like a sun, inclines one to want to orbit him like a satellite. That image is especially vivid when one watches the way his family hovers about him when he speaks to someone they are not familiar with.
“Wyzhir’s always been that way,” said Patrice, echoed by her sister, Sonora Goslee, who lives with them and was also on-hand that fateful night. “He just loves people, and they love him, which is why we always say around here that Wyzhir has never met a ‘stranger’ in his life.”
Still, there were dark days and challenges that would have broken even the most eternal of optimists. Not only was there the obvious heartbreak of having to voluntarily sacrifice his hand after three surgeries and 35 blood transfusions, there were the people who asked Wyzhir, unbelievably, if he had deliberately cut off his own hand in order to gain attention and possible reward. And there was the emotional breakdown he had in the hospital, sobbing in hopeless frustration as he strained to comprehend how such a cruel and senseless thing could have happened to someone who’d always led such a good and decent life.
After hearing this story, you could hardly blame the ABC network’s Extreme Makeover: Home Edition and Annapolis-based green builder the Fusion Companies for rolling up their collective sleeves and diving right in to do whatever it took to assuage the suffering of this hapless clan. Together, they created a beautiful 2,700 sq. ft., contemporary-farmhouse-style, solar-powered marvel in steel blue with white trim. Gone were the six-and-a-half-foot ceilings, replaced by a 20-foot cathedral in the family room/entertainment area. The four custom-decorated bedrooms and baths meant not only that their days of showering at their neighbor’s house were over but also that each family member now had their own private luxury space that reflected his or her unique personality. Whereas Sonora’s room boasts all-black walls with a serene, spa-like feel, Patrice’s room — with its chandelier, gilded wall coverings and canopy bed swathed in royal blue — is something out of a Victorian romance novel. By contrast, Wyzhir’s room sports the cool essence of an emerging sophisticate, synthesizing tasteful themes that are both contemporary and naturalistic.
The home’s funk factor, meanwhile, comes in the form of 13-year-old Renee’s room, which, EHME designer Paige Hemmis told Coastal Style, “is based on a retro-’70s LA-style vibe, to capture Renee’s funky, funny personality.” The space includes lots of period decor along with sunny splashes of color that frame the Charlie’s Angels-style white-silhouette cutouts of none other than Renee herself.
Perhaps most interesting of all, though, is Wyzhir’s detached, custom-built design studio. It features not only an electric glass door that opens onto a patio with waiting Adirondack chairs, but also a mega-high-tech projection-mapping graphics system, designed exclusively for Wyzhir, that allows him to cast two-dimensional images, color schemes and patterns onto three-dimensional objects (e.g., furniture), so he can more realistically visualize the interior-design concepts that he hopes will one day launch his career as a professional.
At least as likely to launch both his and sister Renee’s careers are the full four-year scholarships awarded to them by Salisbury University President Janet Dudley-Eshbach. Wyzhir is currently considering studying communications and marketing, while Renee is steadfast that she will study criminal justice en route to a career in law enforcement.
If all of that weren’t sufficient, EMHE and the Fusion Cos. also made structural improvements to several of the Johnson-Goslee’s relatives’ homes, built community gathering areas and installed solar panels to the family’s church, where Sonora currently serves as a lay minister.
“If someone hold told me that so many could accomplish so much in so little time, I would have thought they were crazy,” declared Anuradha Sharma, an interior designer employed by Bethany Resort Furnishings in Bethany Beach, which sent staff volunteers to assist with the project. “The way the EMHE crew was able to coordinate and control what was essentially chaos is totally mindboggling to me. But this family really deserves it, so it was a particular honor for us to have been a part of it.”
Suffice it to say, the Johnson-Goslee family is still breathless with gratitude for a community outreach that ran all the way from Wicomico County to the coast of California. Yet, despite all the miracles they can never hope to repay, there are some fundamental lessons of life they’ve learned from this surreal experience.
“I couldn’t possibly be more grateful for God’s blessing in the form of angels like Extreme Makeover, the Fusion Companies, Salisbury University and all the community volunteers for their boundless love, support and generosity,” said Patrice. “Yet, if we could turn back time, I’d give it all up so that my son could have his hand back. Sure, we were struggling, but we always had each other, and we would have found a way to get there eventually, one way or the other. So, the thing to do is to take all that was done for us and pay it forward, because there are so many among us who need our help, and they need it now.”