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“‘I was a hopeless cause — yet here I am’: You helped Joni beat the odds

Jo Ann “Joni” Feldman was used to her husband Don getting migraines, but she was surprised when she found herself with one for several days straight. A visit to her doctor lead to an MRI which turned into something no one expected — a trip to the ER: Joni had a ruptured brain aneurysm. For a condition that can claim a life in just hours, Joni had survived it for five days.

That night marked the first of many occasions where Joni would cheat death over the next six months. After her diagnosis, Joni was rushed to St. Jude where Dr. Hamed Farid repaired the ruptured blood vessel through a complex procedure, which by nature ran the risk of stroke and permanent brain injury. The operation was successful, with Joni responding cognitively the next day.

Their relief was short-lived however, as the Feldmans soon found themselves facing complication after complication, and several occasions where Joni’s health could have taken a turn for the worse.

“She must have gone through 10 or 11 different procedures. They drained blood from the brain and ventricular fluid, she had an abdominal infection, at one point she was on a breathing tube and at-risk for a tracheotomy,” said Don, recalling stressful moments from Joni’s six-month stay at St. Jude’s Critical Care Unit — one of the longest in hospital history.

“They later told me that there were a number of times they didn’t think Joni was going to make it through the night — but she did, thanks to St. Jude.”

St. Jude can offer hope to patients like Joni thanks to its team of expert neurologists and neurosurgeons coupled with one of the nation’s most advanced surgical settings — which was funded through philanthropy. Beyond treating the initial condition, St. Jude ensured Joni completed the circle of recovery through its neurological rehabilitation program, one of the few CARF (Commission on Accreditation for Rehabilitation Facilities) accredited programs in California.

Don hopes the neuroscience program can continue to grow to help people like Joni. “The more research they can do, the more doctors they can have, the more education they can get — my wife is a living example as to why this department needs to be supported,” said Don. 

Don also credits his wife’s miraculous recovery with the compassionate care she received at St. Jude. “If St. Jude is the patron saint of hopeless causes, then the CCU unit is where he belongs. The nurses and the doctors in that unit don’t quit. They make impossible situations into success stories, and we are so thankful for everything they did for us,” said Don.

Joni has little memory of her half-year stay at St. Jude, but she does remember coming back to visit the CCU staff that took care of her. “When the nurses and doctors saw me walking the halls, they looked at me like they were looking at a ghost,” laughs Joni. “I guess I was a hopeless cause, yet here I am — and I thank them with all my heart.”

St. Jude Medical Center is committed to advancing successful patient outcomes even in the most complex cases, but it can only do so through continuous support from the community. Contact us to learn how you can help grow St. Jude’s neurosciences programs.

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Call: 714-992-3033
Address: 100 W. Valencia Mesa Drive, Fullerton, CA 92835
Email: SJMF@providence.org

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