NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – The first day of school for an Orange County boy named Joe was not only an exciting day for him, but it was also a milestone his mother wasn’t sure he’d ever make.

For months, Joe has been recovering from a brain aneurysm, reports CBS2’s Dick Brennan.

It’s a day Ann Marie Federico has been dreading for her 5-year-old son.

“My first baby is going to kindergarten so it’s a little heartbreaking because time has gone so fast,” she said.

It’s also a moment that, 16 months ago, she wasn’t sure she would see.

One second her healthy son was dancing on the couch. The next, “he suffered a ruptured brain aneurysm, which led to a severe brain bleed, surgeries and almost fatally,” she said.

After numerous surgeries, including the removal and replacement of 40% of his skull, doctors saved his life.

Joe Federico (Credit: CBS2)

Cadaver skin was added to his skull so his swollen brain could recover, but that was only the beginning.

“Couldn’t sit up, walk, speak, he was almost completely paralyzed, couldn’t eat,” said Federico.

The child was transferred to Blythedale Children’s Hospital in Valhalla for rehab. Medical professionals taught him to walk, talk and eat again.

Then came Wednesday, “because today is a special day,” he said. “It’s the first day of school. First day!”

Joe started his first day of school at the medical center. To say he was eager is an understatement.

“Run in my mom’s room, told her immediately I was so excited, ate breakfast, brushed my teeth, put my shoes on and then I was out the door,” said new kindergartner Joe.

Joe Federico on his first day of school. (Credit: CBS2)

Blythedale Children’s Hospital is the only hospital in the state that has a public school on site so kids like Joe can learn in a classroom setting while they continue their rehab.

“While they are here, they are getting their therapies but also being exposed to everything a student would be at another district,” said special education teacher Stephen Slansky.

“He has made such strides since he was an inpatient here that we can only maximize what he is doing here, and what you can see,” said senior occupational therapist Lisa Ross.

There are more than 140 children at Joe’s school.

His parents have to travel an hour each direction to get to the Mt. Pleasant Blythedale School, but they say it’s worth it.


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