Arizona mother makes stunning recovery from near death in 2017 Las Vegas shooting

Sep 30, 2022, 4:45 AM | Updated: 6:44 am

PHOENIX — Saturday marks the fifth anniversary of the nation’s deadliest mass shooting at the Route 91 Harvest music festival in Las Vegas.

Among the hundreds who were injured at the event was Jovanna Calzadillas of San Tan Valley. She was struck in the head by a bullet.

Doctors in Las Vegas did not believe she would survive.

Francisco Calzadillas, her husband, was with her when it happened.

“On three different occasions they were going to take her off life support,” he told KTAR News 92.3 FM. “As a family, we made that decision not to.”

Francisco Calzadillas was told his wife was in a coma, and even if she recovered, the outlook was grim.

“That’s one thing us as a family struggled with. We made the decision to keep her alive, now we have to live with the consequences,” he said.

Francisco Calzadillas noticed small signs of life from Jovanna and decided to have her moved to the Select Specialty Hospital in Phoenix. At that point, Jovanna was still thought to be in a coma and slowly dying as ventilators and other machines kept her alive.

Once in Phoenix, new doctors began looking at Jovanna and realized she had been awake and aware since the incident and was not in a coma.

“I remember everything,” Jovanna said. “I couldn’t talk. I couldn’t move. I couldn’t do anything.”

But she was aware.

Dr. Christina Kwasnica, the medical director of Barrow’s Neuro Rehabilitation Center, assessed Jovanna in 2018.

“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,” Kwasnica said in a press release from Dignity Health. “This told me that she was unresponsive because of a language deficit, not because of the severity of her injury. She was not dying.”

Another doctor, Dr. Lindley Bliss, a hospitalist for Barrow and Select Specialty, made the decision to lower the dosage of her fentanyl medication to see if she would respond.

Francisco said this was a turning point.

“Once they took her off that, that’s when she started reacting to people walking in or people talking to her,” he said. “She couldn’t talk back, but she would stare at you and watch you walk throughout the room.”

This meant she could begin her recovery, even if slowly.

“She hadn’t gotten out of bed, gotten in a wheel chair, she obviously hadn’t eaten anything,” Kwasnica said. “She wasn’t communicating.

“Gradually, over the first couple weeks, she was able to eat. She was able to communicate.”

Then she started showing even more progress.

“I think there was a first time I said, ‘Hi dad,’ when he was walking by,” Jovanna said, a moment that came as a shock to her family.

By the time she was able to move, Jovanna was 50 pounds lighter and her head was shaved.

“I was crying,” she said. “I didn’t know what happened to me.”

Jovanna thought she might have been in a car accident, but was not sure.

“I told my mom to tell me,” she explained. “I didn’t even know. Three months later, I didn’t know.”

Jovanna, 35, is now able to walk and speak, as well as take care of her children. She credits support from her family and loved ones for a big part of her recovery.

Kwasnica gave tons of credit to Jovanna.

“She has never complained and has never been afraid to try something she may not be able to do,” Kwasnica said. “She is always upbeat. I’m so proud of her and the hard work she’s put in throughout her long recovery.”

Jovanna and Francisco said people who want to help others who may have similar experiences should donate blood. Jovanna received three blood transfusions throughout her recovery.

And for Francisco, the survival of his wife remains a miracle.

“She’ll be singing a song and I just … I think quietly, ‘How is she alive?'”

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Pass it along to the KTAR News team here.

Arizona News

(Arizona Governor's Office photo/via YouTube)...

Serena O'Sullivan

Gov. Katie Hobbs vetoes GOP-backed bill on border crossing, says it’s a political ploy

Gov. Katie Hobbs' vetoed Senate Bill 1231, a GOP-backed border crossing bill, according to a Monday announcement.

4 hours ago

Image shows xeriscape in front of Arizona home....

City of Chandler begins 3-year process of converting grass to xeriscape

The Chandler City Council recently greenlit a three-year initiative to convert patches of grass to xeriscape, a landscape approach designed to conserve water.

5 hours ago

Split panel image showing the members of Slightly Stupid across the top and Dirty Heads across the ...

Kevin Stone

Dirty Heads, Slightly Stoopid to wrap up Slightly Dirty Summer Tour in Phoenix

Alt-reggae comrades Dirty Heads and Slightly Stoopid are teaming up in 2024 on the appropriately titled Slightly Dirty Summer Tour, which wraps up in Phoenix.

9 hours ago

This month's KTAR’s community spotlight shines on Helios Education Foundation and its mission to ...

Helios Education Foundation aims to accelerate progress in early literacy across Arizona

This month's KTAR’s community spotlight shines on Helios Education Foundation and its mission to accelerate progress in early literacy across Arizona.

10 hours ago

Saul Ballardo was sentenced to 26 years in prison after he shot at officers in the West Valley. (Ma...

West Valley man sentenced to 26 years in prison for targeted shootings at law enforcement

A West Valley man was sentenced to 26 years in prison after he shot at multiple members of law enforcement, authorities announced Monday.

11 hours ago

side by side of Robert Robbins and crowds of people....

SuElen Rivera

UArizona President Robert Robbins to take pay cut amid budget crisis

After leadership changes, the newly elected chair of the state university's governing board plans to cut the salary of UArizona's president.

13 hours ago

Sponsored Articles


Midwestern University

Midwestern University Clinics: transforming health care in the valley

Midwestern University, long a fixture of comprehensive health care education in the West Valley, is also a recognized leader in community health care.


Collins Comfort Masters

Here’s 1 way to ensure your family is drinking safe water

Water is maybe one of the most important resources in our lives, and especially if you have kids, you want them to have access to safe water.


Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Valley residents should be mindful of plumbing ahead of holidays

With Halloween in the rear-view and more holidays coming up, Day & Night recommends that Valley residents prepare accordingly.

Arizona mother makes stunning recovery from near death in 2017 Las Vegas shooting