Girl recovered quickly after receiving penicillin delivered via snowmobile during blizzard

By: - January 2, 2023 4:00 pm
snow drift

Snow drifts were taller than the cab on a tractor at the ranch of Adam and Bre Johnson north of Cody around Christmas. An emergency snowmobile run of Dec. 23 delivered much-needed medicine to their daughter (Courtesy of Adam Johnson)

LINCOLN — A sick girl who needed a snowmobile-delivery of penicillin during a blinding blizzard in Nebraska’s Sandhills recovered quickly once she received the antibiotic, her mother said Monday.

Highways and roads in the Cody, Nebraska, were blocked by drifting snow on Dec. 23 while the condition of 5-year-old Zoey Johnson was worsening at the family’s ranch, 12 miles north of town.

Doctors suspected scarlet fever after examining emailed photographs and assessing symptoms relayed by her parents, Adam and Bre Johnson, from their snowed-in ranch.

Zoey’s father contacted some neighbors he knew had snowmobiles. Trapper Schied, 15, and his 12-year-old brother, Chase, agreed to make the treacherous trip through strong winds and wind chills measuring 30-below zero.

Compared to Iditarod

Driving two snowmobiles, in case one broke down or became stuck, the boys drove to Cody to pick up penicillin that had been driven from Valentine by John Witt, the husband of their doctor.

They then delivered the antibiotics to the Johnson ranch, before returning home — a trip that some in Cherry County compared to the Iditarod, a 1,000-mile dog sled race that commemorates a winter 1925 run of life-saving serum to Nome, Alaska.

Bre Johnson said her daughter was back to normal within a few hours, though it took several days before her rash cleared up.

It does take a village,” the mother said. “That’s the saying — it really does.”

The Scheid brothers, reached by phone Monday, declined to comment. They reportedly have said they don’t want to make a big deal out of just helping out a neighbor.

More snow forecast

But Bre Johnson said her family was very grateful.

She said that they were fortunate their daughter is better and that they lost only two calves in the storm, the second blizzard to hit their ranch and one that scattered about 100 calves to a neighbor’s ranch.

It was snowing again in north-central Nebraska as she spoke Monday afternoon. Another 10-12 inches of snow is forecast, though without the gale-force winds of the storm before Christmas.

“We can see perfectly fine,” Bre Johnson said. “But we probably won’t be out for a while again.”

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Paul Hammel
Paul Hammel

Senior Reporter Paul Hammel has covered the Nebraska state government and the state for decades. Previously with the Omaha World-Herald, Lincoln Journal Star and Omaha Sun, he is a member of the Omaha Press Club's Hall of Fame. He grows hops, brews homemade beer, plays bass guitar and basically loves traveling and writing about the state. A native of Ralston, Nebraska, he is vice president of the John G. Neihardt Foundation.