Join the Courageous: Vegas Shooting Victim’s Miraculous Recovery
Jovanna Calzadillas was swaying to Jason Aldean’s “When She Says Baby” when the bullets began raining down on the Route 91 Music Festival in Las Vegas in 2017. One tore through the 30-year-old mother’s brain, leaving her among the 546 people injured in the October 1 massacre that killed 58 people.
She was one of the first to arrive at University Medical Center, where doctors operated but were unable to remove the bullet. She was unresponsive. Doctors advised her family to consider organ donation.
Her husband, Frank, a police officer, refused. So they came back home to Phoenix. Jovanna was transported to Barrow Neurological Institute and the Select Specialty Hospital.
The power of neuro-robotics in rehabilitation
Christina Kwasnica, MD, medical director of Barrow’s Neuro-Rehabilitation Center was asked to assess Jovanna at Select Specialty and noticed small signs of responsiveness from her patient.
“Jovanna was shot on the left side of her brain which is the side that processes language, so I knew she wouldn’t be able to comprehend language to follow commands but her eyes were open and she was able to track in a very small way with her eyes,” says Dr. Kwasnica. “This told me that she was unresponsive because of a language deficit, not because of the severity of her injury. She was not dying.”
At Barrow’s inpatient neuro-rehabilitation center, a combination of intuitive medicine and robotic therapy had her talking, joking and walking with assistance in four months. Jovanna’s rehabiliation included walking with an exoskeleton device, a wearable robot that helps brain injured patients walk, and a robot that helped her regain function in her arm. She’s now walking short distances on her own, using a walker. Barrow’s neuro-rehabilitation program utilizes robotics in the recovery process to help patients with mobility and repetition, which can expedite the healing process.
It has made an incredible difference for patients like Jovanna, who says,
“I love the people at Barrow. They have been so good to me.”
The love is returned by staff and the community alike. Through world-wide media coverage, her recovery has been an inspiration to people across the globe. “I want to let others know not to live their lives in fear. 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,” says Jovanna.