The Johnston family was introduced to the world on March 31, 2015, when their reality show 7 Little Johnstons debuted on TLC. The show immediately had a loyal audience, and viewers began rooting for Trent and Amber Johnston and their five children: Jonah, Elizabeth, Anna, Alex, and Emma. Each member of the family has been diagnosed with achondroplasia, a type of dwarfism characterized by a regular-sized torso and shorter limbs (Healthline).
Trent and Amber Johnston met in 1994 and married four years later. The two were anxious to start a family, and Amber was pregnant with their son Jonah five months later (via ABC News). The couple decided to have a second child two years later, but the pregnancy proved dangerous. After their daughter Elizabeth was born, the Johnstons decided to expand their family through adoption. They adopted their daughter Anna from Siberia, daughter Emma from China, and their son Alex from South Korea.
Alex Johnston’s adoption wasn’t easy
Trent and Amber Johnston adopted for the first time in March 2004, when Amber received information about a young girl in Siberia who had been diagnosed with achondroplasia dwarfism. She later told Rainbow Kids that they were able to complete Anna’s adoption in 13 weeks, which is astoundingly fast.
Amber received a phone call again in December 2005 and was asked if she knew of a family who would be interested in adopting a baby boy from South Korea. The Johnstons had been waiting for a son to join their family, and this felt like the right moment. They dove in, but quickly realized the process would be very different.
"South Korea requires the adoption fee to be paid in full at the beginning of the process; therefore, we did not have the funds or the time to fundraise," Amber said. "Every day it took us to acquire the funds necessary was one more day our son was not receiving the medical treatment and care he needed" (via Rainbow Kids).
Amber placed a phone call to their church’s pastor who said they would raise the money in a few months. "Overcome with emotion, I explained we do not have weeks or months!" Amber recalled. "Fifteen minutes after returning home from that conversation, our phone rang. It was our pastor informing us that a couple from our church inquired about our adoption that same evening and volunteered to write out a check for the entire amount, $15,150" (via Rainbow Kids).
Alex Johnston had a scary brain surgery in 2017
Many people with achondroplasia dwarfism may end up needing surgeries as their bodies develop and grow. When Alex was 10, the family was told he needed brain surgery. People shared that in the first episode of that year’s season, Alex’s doctor told the family, "My diagnosis for Alex is that he has Central Apnea, most likely caused from brain stem compression."
Amber Johnston further explained, "Obviously our anatomy is different than average size people. The base of our skull where the brain stem meets the spinal chord, the bone that surrounds that area is always extremely tight" (via People).
Thankfully, Alex’s surgery was a success and he fully recovered, but both he and his mom were rattled by the experience. In the episode that featured the surgery, Amber told the 7 Little Johnstons audience, "There’s always risks involved. He could come out paralyzed. He could not make it through the surgery. If I could take away all the pain, if I could lay down and be the one to be operated on, I would in a heartbeat" (via People).
Alex Johnston had another medical scare in 2015
His brain surgery wasn’t the only medical procedure Alex endured. In 2015, Alex went to his doctor’s office to get a MRI, which is a pretty routine event for him, as the scan helps monitor his body and see what he might need. Unfortunately, something went wrong while he was under sedation for the procedure and Alex stopped breathing.
The family shared the event in one of their episodes, and Amber was visibly upset. While speaking to the camera, she described every parent’s worst nightmare. "His chest was just, like, pumping so hard. So that’s when I got scared, because I couldn’t hear him breathing. I’m just wondering if he’s, like, okay and stuff. And if this is the right thing. Anesthesia is always scary when doing these types of things" (via The Wrap).
Fortunately, Alex recovered from the event with no additional complications, and everyone in his family could rest easy knowing he was okay.
Alex Johnston sells his own origami crafts online
Amber Johnston is intent on keeping her family grounded and is proud of the fact that they all support themselves with jobs. They even consider appearing on the show as just one of the many jobs the members of the family hold. As Amber told The List in an exclusive interview regarding the show, "This is a job. It’s a family job in a sense of family business, and we’re all seven in it. And when we no longer all seven want to be in it, then it’s not going to work, but we must all work together.’"
According to their TLC bios, Trent Johnston works as a grounds supervisor for a college in Georgia, and in addition to being a full-time mom, Amber Johnston is head of the local Parent-Teacher Association and Girl Scouts.
Alex Johnston also has his own side gig: He’s the operator of his very own Etsy store, Alex Paper Co. He sells a variety of origami items and designs, including bookmarks, lotus flowers, and animal families. He’s not the only one of the Johnston kids who runs his own shop. His sisters Anna and Emma both also have their own Etsy shops, where they each sell jewelry and other accessories (via Distractify).
Alex Johnston has a brand new hobby — cooking!
When he’s not busy crafting origami, Alex has another hobby that he really seems to love — cooking! In the second episode of season 8, Alex was inspired by a cooking competition show and set out to get better at cooking on his own. Now he’s fully invested in the hobby, and the Johnstons even remodeled their kitchen last year to make it safer for Alex and the rest of the family to cook (via The Things).
Alex’s interest in cooking has actually been well-documented throughout the most recent seasons of the family’s show. Amber even decided the kids should have a cook-off competition of their own. Alex partnered with Elizabeth to make Italian beef stroganoff, caramelized figs, and stir-fried green beans. Alex and Elizabeth won, beating out Emma and Anna’s "Etalian" spaghetti with green beans (via Celeb Dirty Laundry).