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Sioson Strong: TFA Family grateful for life, Royals’ support

“Everything that has happened this year has been a miracle after another.”

Life can change in a moment, let alone a year. That’s what happened for the Sioson family when Joel Sioson suffered an aortic dissection and spinal stroke just days before Thanksgiving last year. Doctors said he had a 1% chance of survival. Not only did he survive, but he is progressing in ways doctors did not expect, and the family says it’s because of the many miracles they have experienced since last November.

“They say it is a miracle that he is close to walking right now,” said Joel’s wife, Kimi Rapada. “When he was in the hospital they said it was an incomplete paralysis. He was unable to move at all from the waist down. The hard work that he’s put in, the support that he’s gotten, it hasn’t been easy but there have certainly been many blessings along the way.”

Those blessings began to pour out on the Siosons immediately after Joel collapsed and was rushed to the hospital. Families, neighbors, and friends were

Siosons

providing meals, contributing financially, giving rides to their three kids Enzo, Rocco, and Juliette, providing groceries, and much more.

“They loved on our kids through three major holidays. Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s were all taken care of,” said Kimi. “One thing I reflect upon too that makes us smile is the letters and cards we received, not only from the parents and families but from the kids. Some of the teachers gave time to the kids at school to write letters and notes to Joel in the hospital. We will forever cherish those.”

Joel spent a month and a half in the hospital before returning home and continuing with physical therapy.

“As soon as I got home, I wanted to get around the house, go outside, do things I couldn’t do in the hospital. It just progressed from there,” Joel said.

He progressed quickly and was out of a wheelchair and walking with support by March. Since then the focus has been on walking and balance, but when doctors said progress had stalled in October, that’s when the next miracle took place.

“It was the TFA families that stepped in and said we got it. We’re here. Whatever you need, however we can help. It turned into this miraculous three or four times a week of Joel connecting with these amazing, loving young men and their fathers,” said Kimi. “The relationships that are being formed. We’re seeing these boys grow up into stellar young men. To be able to see them and watch them help one of their best friend’s dad in a way we need it most is just beautiful.”

Those young men are Enzo’s friends and members of TFA’s Varsity Football team. They created a schedule, coming over and walking with Joel, going to the gym, working on his balance, and continuing to make progress.

“It was disappointing when we heard because we had been fighting to have physical therapy this whole year. It was disappointing to hear the news that we were going to be pausing for a bit. But then that blessing in disguise just came and this new chapter, this new season of Joel working with these boys wouldn’t have happened if they hadn’t said we’re going to pause,” Kimi said.

The Siosons have been posting on social media about their journey on Instagram, highlighting Joel’s progress and the love and support they’ve received from the TFA community, friends, and family. In spite of the progress, there is still a long road ahead. Joel will check back in with physical therapy in January, and is still vigilant about his condition.

People see the impact of the spinal cord stroke that caused the incomplete paralysis, but it was the aortic dissection, which is a tear in the inner layer of the aorta, that could have been fatal. Joel said he was going to lay down for a minute, but as soon as he stood up from his chair while working from home, he felt his headache go from his head to his jaw.

“All of a sudden I couldn’t stand and I collapsed onto the floor. So if that didn’t happen, I would just have laid down and thought oh I have a pain in my chest, and that would have been much worse,” Joel said. “If I hadn’t collapsed and lost feeling from the waist down, it would have probably been a completely different story.”

Thankfully Enzo was home and called his mom to return home quickly.

“We believe that God was with him to save his life and we are beyond grateful for the second chance. We are now aggressively monitoring Joel’s health and recovery from the aortic dissection. It’s a complicated condition and recovery, yet we continue to advocate for the best-integrated health care, which includes about a dozen doctors” said Kimi.

Throughout it all, Kimi and Joel said they can’t imagine having been in any other place. From the outpouring of support they received from family, friends, teachers, and students, they are so grateful for the love they have received.

It technically was an aortic dissection that caused a spinal cord stroke. What people see most is the impact of that stroke and his inability to walk. But the things that are unseen are the aortic dissection and the impacts that had on his body.

“I think that TFA and the families, they gave us a sense of peace that God was working, that God was working through so many families, some that we know and quite frankly some that we don’t know that have helped take care of us,” said Kimi. “The many hands and feet that continue to support our family is humbling. And continues to give us hope.”

The Siosons say all of those miracles, all of the prayers, the support, and the love that have been given is something that they have learned to lean into. It’s taught their children resilience and perseverance, showing them how they look at relationships, and family, and the blessings that have come along the way.

“We’re still early in this story. Although we typically wouldn’t be comfortable sharing, it is our hope in doing so that it can also help others.”