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Recognizing Paul Johnson of Great Falls

Floor Speech

Date: Oct. 13, 2020
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. GIANFORTE. Madam Speaker, I rise today to honor Dr. Paul Johnson of Great Falls for caring for his community on the front line and for the sacrifices he made during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Paul Johnson loves his camper. His family bought their first one 10 years ago so they could spend more time together making their own Montana moments. For Paul, his wife, and their four kids, camping is a huge part of their lifestyle, and they cherish their time together. But this year looked a little different for the Johnson camper. It served as a home for Paul as he worked at Benefis West campus to keep his patients and family safe from the coronavirus.

Back in March, the Benefis Health System instituted a respiratory clinic for the sole purpose of treating COVID-19 patients. Paul was one of three commissioned physicians to oversee the clinic, putting him in direct contact with COVID-19 patients. Formerly a part of the U.S. Army Reserve and currently in the National Guard, it's in Paul's DNA to serve others.

For nine weeks, Paul camped at the Benefis West campus and the local KOA campground, away from his wife and children. Paul says he had to do what was best for his family. His eldest son was home, about to be deployed to Afghanistan. His daughter also worked at a family ranch that had guests coming and going. Paul simply didn't want to jeopardize his family's health if he was an asymptomatic carrier.

Paul is good at putting things in perspective, though. He says it certainly wasn't as bad as being deployed out of country. Still, the experience was emotionally and mentally draining, especially since there wasn't a clear light at the end of the tunnel. But to Paul, the easiest thing to do was grab the bull by the horns and take care of his patients.

His family is very proud of him, and so am I.

Living out of a camper in March with no heat wasn't easy. When it was below freezing, his water wouldn't run, so he used the hospital for a warm shower. Cooking for himself was a challenge. Paul says there were a lot of busy days and sleepless nights. To pass the time, he tied flies. When it wasn't cold, he was able to take a socially distant dog walk with his wife, but there was no hand-holding or kissing. Paul says that was one of the hardest parts.

Many may ask, ``Why go to these lengths?'' For Paul, he was committed to treating his patients and serving his community in a time of need.

Madam Speaker, for his outstanding service to country, for his dedication to family, and for his selfless, unwavering patient care, I recognize Paul Johnson of Great Falls for his Spirit of Montana.

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