U.S. Sen. Tim Johnson (D-SD), a Vermillion native, will soon be coming home.
The senator and his wife, Barbara, announced Aug. 7 that they plan to return to South Dakota at the end of the month. Plans are currently underway and details will be forthcoming.
"The doctors have given me a 'thumbs up', and Barb and I are incredibly excited to head home. We have missed our friends and family and cannot wait to meet our two new grandchildren," Johnson said.�
"We're just in the process of making arrangements right now, but I really don't have any details on that yet," said Julianne Fisher, Johnson's communications director. "We really are just in the starting phase of everything. We know he will be in Sioux Falls for at least part of his stay, because that's where his grandkids are."
Johnson has not been away from the Washington, DC area since late last December, when he suffered a brain hemorrhage while working on Capitol Hill.
The senator has been recovering at hospitals and in his Fairfax, VA home and has not appeared in public since he fell ill.
Johnson has been undergoing speech therapy and is expected to return to the Senate sometime in September. He will use a motorized scooter to get around in the Capitol.
Johnson, 60, was rushed from his Senate office to George Washington University Hospital after becoming disoriented during a conference call with reporters in December.
He underwent emergency surgery for arteriovenous malformation, a condition that causes arteries and veins in the brain to grow abnormally large, become tangled and sometimes burst.
"I know my return has taken longer than some people have liked – count me among them. But I learned early on in this journey the importance and necessity of relying on the advice and counsel of those doctors, nurses and therapists without whom my return would have been impossible," Johnson said. "I am eternally grateful to each and every one of them. And frankly, I am very humbled and even a bit overwhelmed that the outpouring from South Dakotans has been one of support, prayer, understanding and patience."
Johnson's son, Brendan, who practices law in Sioux Falls, has watched his father undergo a remarkable healing process in the last eight months. He's sure that the trip home to South Dakota will only accelerate his father's recovery.
"After my father got out of the rehab center, and he got back home, his progress really increased," Brendan said, referring to his father's initial stay in both a Washington, DC hospital and later in a nearby rehabilitation center. "I think the same is going to be true when he is able to get back to South Dakota and later when he is able to get back to the floor of the Senate.
"I think those two things are really going to increase the speed of his recovery and serve as a motivating factor for him," Brendan said.
"This is definitely a goal of Tim's, to get back home," Fisher said. "The goal was to get home first and to thank the people of South Dakota, and shortly after that to get back to work in the Senate."
"While I have always believed there is a special uniqueness in South Dakotans, my faith in the goodness of the people of our state has never been higher," Johnson said.����
"We were scheduled to head home last December to celebrate Christmas and Tim's 60th birthday," Barbara Johnson said. "The celebration may be a little late, but planting our feet on South Dakota soil will be our Christmas morning.
"Our family and Tim's staff have been busy working to make sure things are in place when he returns.�This is not the end of our journey to recovery, but it is a significant milestone," she said.
The Johnsons announced earlier this week that they are new grandparents. Brendan, and his wife, Jana, adopted two children from Ethiopia. Trualem, age 10, and Peneal, age 8, join their sons Sutton and Cooper as the newest members of the Johnson family.�
There likely will never be a dull moment for Tim and Barbara as they find themselves surrounded by their growing family.
"Jana and I were saying that our household is like going from playing man-on-man with our two biological kids to playing zone defense now," Brendan said, laughing. "Rather than each one taking a child, we divide ourselves among all four."
South Dakotans who meet the senator later this month will notice his speech is slower and softer, Brendan said. "He's not able to move as well as he once did. But just the fact that cognitively he's firing at 100 percent, and I think that going back to the Senate floor to communicate with his colleagues and to be engaged 100 percent in South Dakota issues is really going to help him."
"Everything is falling into place," Fisher said, "and returning to work has always been the senator's goal. He's racing toward that."