A young Arizona mother who was shot in the head during the nation’s deadliest mass shooting is preparing to leave the hospital after making a “profound” and “amazing” recovery, according to her physicians.
Jovanna Calzadillas was one of the 556 injured during the mass shooting at the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival in Las Vegas on Oct. 1. She was attending the concert with her husband Francisco Calzadillas, who is a Salt River police officer, according to Phoenix television station KTVK.
A bullet traveled through her brain, and the injury was so critical that doctors in Las Vegas did not expect Calzadillas to live and even spoke with her family about taking her off life support.
She was transported by air to Phoenix on Oct. 19, where she received medical treatment at Barrow Neurological Institute and Select Specialty Hospital.
Dr. Lindley Bliss was one of the first to meet Calzadillas, whose prognosis, he said, was “considered pretty grim.” At that point, she was unable to breathe on her own and nobody knew what the future would hold. Doctors weren’t even sure she would ever recover.
“The hardest part for us was the unknown,” Jovanna’s husband said at a news conference on the eve of her release from the hospital. “We as a family, we left in God’s hands and here she is.”
Bliss said the victim’s family and their unwavering support were integral to her recovery.
“Their support and her hard work were just something that’s truly memorable. Her progress from the day I first met her [on Oct. 19] is nothing short of miraculous,” he said.
Calzadillas is one of the first critically injured victims from the tragedy to both make and discuss her recovery publicly.
She said her children and her family inspire her.
“I will not quit on them and I will not quit on myself,” Calzadillas said. “I feel strong and positive, plus I get to boss my husband around.”
That progress is a testament to her determination, according to Dr. Christina Kwasnica, who headed up the rehabilitation. The doctor
“The mortality of gunshot wounds to the head is about 50 percent,” said Dr. Christina Kwasnica, who has headed up her rehabilitation and described Calzadillas as a “go-getter” who worked hard during her recovery.
Kwasnica said patients with gunshot wounds to the brain are among the “most challenging” they care for.
“Even though I will not be the same old Jovanna, I will come back stronger,” Calzadillas said. “And I got one last thing to say. Sí se puede.”
That means, “Yes, I can.”
“I want to let others know not to live their lives in fear,” she said in a news release from the hospital. “I am not going to live my life in fear because of what happened to me. Life is too short. We cannot let them win. And, I want people to know that miracles do happen.”
Once she’s back home, Calzadillas will start outpatient rehab.
“If she thought this was hard, we’re going to make it doubly hard on her,” Kwasnica said. “But that OK but it’s the hard work that gets you to where you want to be and I know she can do it.”
Francisco Calzadillas spoke with KTVK in December on her continuing recovery.
“It’s not that the doctors were wrong, it’s just Jovanna’s strong and proved them wrong,” he said about his wife. “She’s starting to talk a little bit and say words and she’ll reach out for your hand and she’ll even kiss when I ask for a kiss so we have something to work with.”
Francisco said the doctors had started talking about donating her organs when things were at their worst.
“A few weeks after the shooting, Jovanna was flown to a neurological rehab facility,” he said. “She had been in a coma but then [in November], she started opening her eyes and on Thanksgiving, she laughed.”
Francisco said their kids, 11 and 3 years old, are her motivation. He added that every night he prays for those who lost family members or friends in that massacre.