On September 19, 2010, Josephine was diagnosed with a rare, malignant, high-grade brain tumor called atypical teratoid rhabdoid tumor (AT/RT). AT/RT is a rare tumor type that accounts for less than 5% of all pediatric central nervous system tumors. Josephine was admitted to the Joseph M. Sanzari Children's Hospital at Hackensack University Medical Center (HackensackUMC), one of the nation's Top 25 Children's Hospitals in the subspecialty of neurology and neurosurgery.
Unfortunately, after a year-long battle that included numerous surgeries, 5 rounds of high-dose chemotherapy, 2 auto-stem cell transplants, and 6 weeks of daily spinal and cranial radiation, Josephine lost her fight on October 23, 2011. Throughout it all, enduring treatment for more than 250 inpatient days at the Joseph M. Sanzari Children's Hospital, she never once lost her fighting spirit and on that day in October 2011, Josephine earned her angel wings.
On July 9, 2012, the day Josephine would have turned 8-years old, Josephine's family and friends gathered to officially unveil Josephine's Garden. Just as she had planned, the area features a wishing fountain, a climbing boulder, warrior pole, chalk board and inspirational artwork. Her mother, Heidi Rispoli, said if her daughter were here today, she would "climb on the boulder and then she'd carve her name in the warrior pole and leave her mark to say 'I fought the fight.'"
The Joseph M. Sanzari Children's Hospital sees more 100,000 visits annually. Some may visit for a couple of hours, or some may be with us for extended periods of time. But, each patient who walks through the doors of the Children's Hospital now has the opportunity to visit Josephine's Garden. Easily accessible and open year-round, Josephine's Garden is a place where our young patients can be outside, breathe fresh air, and feel the wind in their faces - just as Josephine dreamed they would.