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Las Vegas shooting survivor meets the blood donor who saved her life

Jovana Calzadillas of Arizona survived the 2017 mass shooting that killed 60 people. She recently got a chance to meet the blood donor who helped save her life.
Credit: 12 News

PHOENIX — Most people go through daily life never thinking about the unthinkable.

But on Oct. 1, 2017, the unthinkable became reality for Jovana and Frank Calzadillas.

“I never thought it was going to be me,” said Jovana Calzadillas, who survived a gunshot to her head during the Route 91 Harvest Festival shooting in Las Vegas.

“Like they say, you never think it's going to be you,” said Calzadillas’ husband, Frank. “You know, it never crosses your mind. When you finally realize what's going on, that's when it [the shooting] started and it's already too late.”

A gunman on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Hotel had opened fire on a crowd 400 feet below that was attending a music festival. That night 60 people died and 867 people were injured, including Calzadillas.

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During the shooting, Frank watched as Jovana tried to stand up and fall back down. At that moment, the off-duty Salt River Police officer knew his wife was hit. He picked her up and ran.

“The one thing that bothers me a lot was feeling dirt hit the back of my legs because that's what I remember a lot,” Frank said, remembering how it seemed the shooter was aiming just at him as he ran with his wife.

At the hospital, doctors told Frank that Jovana’s wounds weren't survivable.

But somehow, miraculously, she hung on. Part of the credit goes to her doctors, part of it to the unwavering faith of her family, and part of it to a man that she had never met until Friday.

Thad Bodker made the trip from Henderson, Nevada to downtown Phoenix Friday morning to meet the life that his blood donation helped save. 

Bodker is a regular donor to Vitalant, a major supplier of blood to hospitals. At the end of a Donor Appreciation event held Friday morning at the Downtown Sheraton, Thad surprised Frank and Jovana on stage.

“I'm so glad- these people, they're great people,” Thad said of the Calzadillases.

For the Calzadillas family, a long road still lies ahead. Although the shooting changed everything for Jovana, her incredible spirit and will to live have never wavered.

“Like, 10 years from now, I'm going to be walking like normal and talking like normal,” Jovana said.

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