Young man with special needs saves elderly neighbor while shoveling snow


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IDAHO FALLS — Every time it snows, Ethan Johnson is out shoveling his neighbors’ driveways.

The 21-year-old, born with special needs, takes it upon himself to make sure every driveway in his Pevero Drive cul-de-sac is clear of snow following storms.

“He has such a giant heart. He helps anybody with anything,” says Ethan’s mother, Michele Mangum.

Ethan Johnson removes snow from a neighbors driveway. | Nate Eaton,

That giant heart and helpful attitude was taken to a whole new level on Jan. 4 when Ethan saved a neighbor’s life.

Temperatures were below zero, and snow drifts were piling high in Jerry Wixom’s driveway. The 72-year-old widower, who lives alone, went outside and started his snowblower.

“Within minutes, I suddenly lost feeling in my feet, and I was beginning to have a hard time standing,” Wixom told “It dawned on me that I was having a problem, maybe even a stroke, so I held onto my snow thrower and backed up very carefully to the garage.”

Wixom pinned himself against the garage but realized that if he opened the door, he would fall and nobody would see him.

“The snow pile in front of my house and the drifts were so high that you couldn’t see into the garage from the street or sidewalk,” Wixom said.

Large snow piles in front of Wixom’s house would have made it difficult for anyone to see him in his driveway or garage. | Nate Eaton,

He was stuck, couldn’t reach his cellphone and was rapidly losing feeling in his body.

Nobody was outside — except Ethan.

“He was next door shoveling the neighbors’ driveway,” Wixom says. “I yelled to him that I needed help, and he came running. It truly was an act of God that he was there.”

Ethan ran over to Wixom, who told the young man to go get his mother.

“All of a sudden he came in the front door and I have never heard Ethan in such a panic,” Mangum remembered. “He kept saying, ‘Mom, Mom, Mom! Jerry, Jerry, Jerry – Jerry needs help!'”

Mangum, along with Ethan and his 22-year-old brother, Chase Johnson, who also has special needs, ran over to Wixom and called 911. As they waited for paramedics, the three tried to help get him inside.

Ethan’s mother, Michele Mangum, ran over to Wixom’s house to help. | Nate Eaton,

“We carried him to the front porch, but he was too heavy (to go any farther),” Ethan said. “We had to put him down (and then) the ambulance and fire truck came.”

Wixom was rushed to Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center, and doctors discovered he had suffered two strokes.

After some tests, treatment and rehab, he returned home Friday.

Some of his first visitors were Ethan, his brother and their mother.

Ethan Johnson and Jerry Wixom say their friendship has been taken to a whole new level. | Nate Eaton,

“I just can’t imagine what would have happened in any other scenario,” Mangum said. “If Ethan wasn’t outside when Jerry fell, nobody would have seen him for hours or even days.”

“Had he not been there, who knows?” Wixom added. “I might have turned into a Popsicle that day. Fortunately, two people came together that day, and he saved my life. What more can I say?”