Music is a powerful influence that can be felt deep within the body, often impacting people’s moods. Furthermore, people gather at shows and musical festivals to have a great time, dance and spend time with their closest friends or family, and in some cases, meet new people. Alternatively, these large gatherings are often the target of violence. As was the case in 2017 at a country music festival in Las Vegas.
A Fateful Festival
In September 2017, around 22,000 fans gathered at the Route 91 Harvest Festival in Las Vegas, Nevada. Many attended to see Jason Aldean perform when a gunman opened fire on the crowd. A single shooter, 64 at the time, Stephen Craig Paddock, worked alone, shooting into the crowd from his hotel room in Mandalay Bay, according to authorities. Police responded to calls just after 10 p.m., discovering Paddock already dead, believing he had killed himself before police entered. Although it was originally reported that “police fatally shot Paddock.”
Left Without Answers
Police investigated Paddock’s history to hopefully better understand his motives. Weirdly, he had a clean record, with the exception of a citation from several years prior, meaning he had no criminal history. Therefore, victims and their families will likely have huge wounds on their hearts for which they may never gain closure.
Although there was never any clarification as to why Paddock chose such destructive violence police did find 23 firearms in the hotel room and an additional 19 in his home. Sadly, this event is one of the most deadly mass shootings to take place in US History.
Tragically, around 60 people lost their lives. Meanwhile, nearly 1,000 people were severely injured. Including, Jovanna Calzadillas. Jovanna was a mere 30 years old at the time, and her life was just blossoming as the young wife and mother, had just given birth to her second child, a baby girl, a few months prior to the festival.
She and her husband, “Frank“, from Arizona, were at the festival with some friends, enjoying some much-needed adult time. They were dancing and enjoying “When She Says Baby” by Jason Aldean when shots could be heard throughout the concert.
One witness, present at the time of the shooting, told MSNBC, “We heard what sounded like firecrackers going off. Then all of a sudden we heard what sounded like a machine gun. People started screaming that they were hit. When we started running out, there were probably a couple hundred on the ground.”
Jovanna, a Victim Destined to Thrive
Sadly, one of those people was Jovanna Calzadillas, who’d been shot in the head. In contrast, her will and determination were her only hope, as doctors predicted she’d have months to live. However, the inspirational woman has gone above and beyond to overcome the tragedy she and her family, endured that day. In fact, at the time she was one of the first patients to be brought to the medical center. Upon arrival, she was brain-dead, and medical professionals told her husband and family to consider alternatives, such as donating her organs. Regardless of the professional opinions, her adoring husband refused to pull the plug on his wife’s life, noticing in small ways, she was still responsive.
Treatment is Still an Option
The pair came home to Phoenix, where she was taken to Barrow Neurological Institute and the Select Specialty Hospital. As it turns out, it’s lucky that “Frank” refused the first doctor’s advice. “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,” explained 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.”
Dr. Kwasnica was the medical director and was asked to examine Jovanna upon her arrival. Within weeks of starting treatment, she became responsive, and within the first four months, Jovanna was able to communicate and walk with assistance. Her in-patient treatment plan included intuitive medicine and robotic therapy. Now, around five years later, she’s able to walk short distances with a walker. “I love the people at Barrow. They have been so good to me.” Jovanna exclaimed. “I just recently stopped using my wheelchair. My speech and cognition have greatly improved, and I can be a hands-on mom and wife. I feel so fortunate and blessed.”
However, more than just her husband’s love and her treatment at Barrow were required to save her life. It seems she also has to give some credit to Thad Bodker. He traveled from Henderson, Nevada, to Phoenix after donating blood that would ultimately save Jovanna’s life. Although he’s a regular blood donor, he surprised Jovanna with a visit during a “Donor Appreciation” event that took place in downtown Phoenix at the Sheraton about five years after his donation helped to save her life.
Inspiring Others to Look Ahead
Jovanna has overcome countless obstacles and will likely have to continue to do so for quite some time. In addition to her hard, physical work, Jovanna, her family, and many other Route 91 Harvest Festival attendees will likely face years of mental and emotional tribulations as well. Despite this, Jovanna has a message for everyone, a message that’s sure to inspire. “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,” she shared.
- “Join the Courageous: Vegas Shooting Victim’s Miraculous Recovery.” Barrow
- “Vegas shooting survivor continues remarkable recovery five years later.” PRN
- “Las Vegas Shooting: 59 Killed and More Than 500 Hurt Near Mandalay Bay.” NBC News. October 1, 2017
- “Las Vegas shooting survivor meets the blood donor who saved her life.” 12 News. Mark Curtis and Chris Latella. April 29, 2022.