Joy and Johnny’s Story

Johnny and Joy have a special connection beyond their burns; they bonded as brother and sister.

Johnny was born in Bolivia. His host parents (Sue and Tom Miele) met him when he was six months old and weighed 10 pounds. He had suffered burns when he was less than one week old. Based on his scaring and contractions, doctors believe he was burned in a scalding accident.

Before he could be considered for surgery, Johnny had to be “fattened up”. His host parents spent the next year nurturing him and naturally they fell in love with him. They had observed during Johnny’s time with them that he wasn’t reaching typical developmental milestones. He wasn’t crawling by 18 months. They believed he may have a developmental disability or motor development issues.

Johnny began his treatment at Shriners Hospitals for Children – Cincinnati for his burns and scar management but would have multiple surgeries in his future. Along the way, it was time to consider Johnny returning to Bolivia to be reunited with his parents. Unfortunately, his parents had left La Paz without informing any of the people who had arranged for his medical treatment. Since he had been with the Mieles since he was six months old and because they loved him so, they moved forward with adoption proceedings. Johnny was officially adopted in July 2006 at the age of four. They got him enrolled in Preschool Special Education services a few months later.

No sooner had Johnny been adopted by Tom and Sue, they were asked to be host parents again. That is when they met Ai Jing, who had been burned at a young age as well.That was in August 2006 and she was four years old. It certainly disrupted Johnny’s world at first but that didn’t last long.

When Ai Jing first arrived, she could not walk. Doctors at Shriners also believe Ai Jing was scalded as an infant. She would move around by pivoting on her right arm and throwing her torso forward. After she had spent a few months with them, they began calling her “Joy Ai Jing,” in response to the emotion she evoked in the Mieles’ hearts. Later this was shortened to Joy. She was not going to let her burns keep her down. As she has grown in security and love, they have observed her fierce desire to be independent. She always wants to try to perform tasks for herself. Even when her left hand still had contractures of her fingers, she managed to hold a fork or spoon to feed herself. She settled in to become a loved member of their family. As wondrous as her physical transformation has been, they are even more in awe of her spirit. “She is bright and happy and has allowed herself to give life another chance,” said Sue Miele. Joy was officially adopted in November 2012.

Johnny and Joy have been great for one another. They are built-in playmates as well as a support for one another. When they have their visits and surgeries at Shriners Hospitals for Children-Cincinnati, they are always by each other’s side. They ride the bus together, share in Shriners burn camp experiences, and are truly brother and sister.

“They are always a delight and have changed our lives for the better,” said Sue and Tom. “They work hard at everything they do and are true HEROES in our minds.”

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