Today in society the word “miracle” is used fairly loosely. “It was a miracle the Cubs won the World Series!” Or “my post on Facebook had over one million likes, and that is a miracle!” The definition of miracle that describes the story of Joseph Federico is “an extraordinary event that occurs which is statistically unlikely and who many consider to be a work of God.”
The day was Monday May 7, 2018. It was a normal day for the Federico family from New Windsor. Joe, a Sergeant with the New York City Police Department, was at work while his wife Ann Marie, who was nearly nine months pregnant, was home with their two boys Joseph who was three years old, and Charlie who was 15 months old.
Being a gorgeous spring day Ann Marie and the kids had a picnic and played outside all day. Joe came home from work and played baseball with the boys. They ordered a pizza for dinner. While eating Joseph t told his mom “I have a little fever in my head.” Ann Marie figured he had just gotten a little overheated playing outside all day and gave him some water and had him lay down to get some rest.
Joseph came into his parent’s room at 9 p.m. crying.
“Joseph’s eyes were a little unfocused but we attributed that to him being half asleep,” Ann Marie said. “ We figured he had a bad dream and put him back to bed.”
Fifteen minutes later Joseph let out a loud scream. Joe ran into his son’s room to find him vomiting all over his bed. He took him to the bathroom where Ann Marie met them. Joseph continued to vomit when his body went limp and his eyes rolled back. Joe called 911 and within minutes the New Windsor Police Department’s Sgt. Matt Frankl and Officers Frank Pierri Jr. and Jeff Caldara responded to the house arriving at the same time as the New Windsor Volunteer Ambulance Corps’ John Seymour, Monica Duarte, and Chief Michael Bigg.
On the way over in the ambulance Duarte and Bigg were brainstorming on what the situation was and what their possible treatments were going to be. As soon as Chief Bigg and his team saw Joseph’s condition they said “we need to go now!” Bigg picked up Joseph, and he and Duarte got him on the stretcher and ran to the ambulance with Seymour, the officers and Joseph’s dad. Frankl and Pierri got into their patrol cars and gave the ambulance a police escort to the hospital. The ambulance crew were frantically working on Joseph who was not breathing and whose heartbeat was only 10 beats per minute. Normal protocol in a situation with a child who is not breathing and whose heart has stopped would be to administer norepinephrine. With Bigg and Duarte brainstorming they decided to go against protocol and use other medications. Chief Bigg radioed ahead to let St. Luke’s Cornwall Hospital know the dire situation and to call for a Medivac Helicopter to Westchester Medical Center. They started CPR and administered the medications, to try to increase Joseph’s heartrate which they were able to do after four mintues.
They arrived at the hospital and Joseph was immediately seen by Dr. Michelle Garcia. Joseph was sent to CATSCAN which showed that Joseph had suffered a massive brain aneurism. The Medivac Crew arrived to fly Joseph and his father to Westchester Medical Center. Ann Marie in tow with toddler Charlie received a police escort to Westchester Medical Center from Officer Michael Takeuchi and arrived just as the helicopter was touching down with Joseph.
After some testing the Federicos were told that Joseph had a Brain AVM (Arteriovenous Malformation) which is a tangle of abnormal blood vessels connecting arteries and veins in the brain that disrupts the taking of oxygen rich blood from the heart to the brain and back to the lungs and heart. It is an extremely rare condition that Joseph was most likely born with.
Joseph had to have emergency surgery which showed the bleed on his brain to be so bad that the doctors had to remove 40 percent of his skull in order for them to repair the brain. The prognosis was dire, with a brain bleed that severe it was a long shot that Joseph would survive, and if he did he most likely would never wake up, living the rest of his life in a vegetative state with the help of machines keeping him alive. There were three surgeons, four Anesthesiologists, and a slew of nurses working on Joseph during the six hour surgery.
After that surgery Joseph had to stay in a medically induced coma for two and a half weeks so his brain would receive no stimuli giving it a chance to heal. Joseph was very slowly taken off the sedatives until he woke. He was paralyzed due to the surgery and the medication. After a few days Joseph was able to speak for the first time saying “I love you mommy!” Ann Marie was so overjoyed and overcome by emotion that she cried for hours after. Joseph needed over 10 surgeries and little by little he was able to begin to move starting with his right arm, then his right leg. During this time Joseph would get severe fevers, would be vomiting all the time, would have to constantly receive suction to keep his lungs clear, and was having tremors and itchiness from the narcotic withdrawals as they weened him off the medications.
He was able to get the breathing and feeding tubes removed. His hair was growing, he was verbal and expressive, could talk, and remembered everything up to a few days before his aneurism. Through this whole ordeal Joe, Ann Marie, Charlie, and Ann Marie’s parents lived at the Ronald McDonald house which was located across the parking lot of the Maria Ferrari Children’s hospital where Joseph was staying. They all took turns caring for Charlie, and to make sure Joseph always had someone with him 24 hours a day never leaving him alone in the hospital room.
“I would have to be ripped out of Joseph’s room not wanting to leave him ever,” Ann Maries aid, “ but I was very pregnant and needed to get some rest and eat for the baby.”
Sienna Rose Federico was born on June 12th and came home with her mother and brother Charlie on June 14. Ann Marie was forced to take care of her babies alone at home while her husband Joe never left Joseph’s side at the hospital. It was an excruciating time for the family being that they were apart but were able to stay in-touch via Facetime video calls. Joseph was then sent to Blythedale Children’s Hospital for rehabilitation. He was fitted with leg braces which would help him walk again, and he made so much progress while he was there.
Joseph was doing so well that he was able to come home on September 28th which was earlier than expected. Joseph still goes back to Blythedale five days a week for therapy. He still experiences weakness in his left arm and doesn’t have much use of his left hand yet, or peripheral vision in his left eye but those things are expected to come back. He uses a leg brace on his left calf and left foot, and a small foot brace on his right foot but he is able to walk, run, ride a bike, and dance like any other four year old boy. He plays with his brother Charlie running around constantly, loves books, watching movies, and absolutely adores his baby sister Sienna. He is such a sweet, polite, and affectionate child and everyone who cared for him throughout this journey absolutely fell in love with him. And every medical professional who crosses paths with Joseph is amazed by his progress after such a serious prognosis.
On Saturday January 12, the New Windsor Volunteer Ambulance Corps had their annual awards dinner and Joseph along with his family were invited to present a Life Saver Award to the heroes from the Ambulance, Police, and the Hospitals who saved his life.
“We are eternally grateful for the New Windsor Ambulance, the New Windsor PD, and everyone in this room,” said Joe. “This is an amazing organization and we can’t thank you enough. You guys are really excellent!”
Ann Marie Federico was never supposed to be able to have children, having gone to many specialists over the years that told her the same thing. Now years later they have three beautiful children.
“Faith is everything,” Ann Marie says. “ Our prayers were answered. Our baby was saved. Our boy’s life was put in God’s hands. It was the scariest thing we will have to ever face, but God is good and we are blessed to not only have my baby alive, but of sound mind. This boy is amazing and will grow into an amazing man thanks to all of the professionals that dedicate their lives to save the lives of others. We will never be able to repay all of the people for the gift we were given, but we will sure as hell spend every day trying!”
True miracles do happen. And the Federico family has living proof.