Hoag - Newport Beach
Our Stories


A Personal Story of Living Through Depression

Hoag helped open the door to healing for Jim Hahn

Jim Hahn remembers the June day in 2014 when he received the phone call that sent him into crippling depression. His beloved daughter, Leah, had suffered a seizure in the shower and died from a head injury. “She was born on the day Neil Armstrong walked on the moon,” he said quietly. “When you lose a child, it doesn’t make sense.” He stopped eating, sleeping and going to his activities in the community where he and his wife Patricia had retired.

Then, in October of 2014, a lump above Patricia’s breast revealed that she had stage IV breast cancer.

Jim suffered from so much anxiety that it was impossible for him to get into the car to go to her appointments 200 miles away at UC Davis. Jim knew they were in trouble. They needed to move away from the small, rural community in Northern California that once felt welcoming but was now isolating them both geographically and emotionally.

Their other daughter, Suzanne, lived in Huntington Beach where she worked as a nurse. She encouraged them to move south and start over.

Starting Over

“We sold the house and all the furniture and came down with only our clothes and the dog,” he said. They moved into an apartment. Jim was referred to Hoag primary care physician, Sevitlana Safaei, MD.

“My first impression of her was that she was caring, gracious and very professional,” he said. She made it loud and clear that he would be okay. Dr. Safaei reassured Jim that he had found the help he needed to get back the energy and vitality he had been missing for so many years.

Dr. Safaei, who has practiced at Hoag Medical Group for several years, stresses the importance of trust between her and her patients like Jim. “We build a relationship with each patient, so they know that we’re here to listen without judgment and help them through a healing process,” she said. “Jim was ready to accept that his depression was not him, not his fault nor a disease. Once he went back to his interests – yoga and tennis – he found his passion again.” 

Jim, who retired from FedEx in 2000, had lived an adventurous life marked by his ability to overcome any obstacle that came his way. He grew up in the farm town of Minerva, Ohio, where he played sports that earned him a scholarship to the University of Miami, where he walked on to the track team. He always liked airplanes, so Jim majored in business administration with an emphasis on aviation management.

Right before graduation, he met a Navy recruiter who asked him, “Want to join the Navy and fly?”

He did and joined the Aviator Officer Candidate School at Pensacola, FL. Enduring rigorous training that tested his body and mind, he set the best time for the obstacle course. He went on to serve as a flight officer for five years in the US Navy Reserve. He later became a manager in aircraft maintenance for two major airlines before joining FedEx in 1980.

When Jim looks back on those dark years between 2014 and 2017, he doesn’t recognize the man he had been. But Dr. Safaei brought him back into the light. For the first three weeks of treatment, Jim took a mild antidepressant and sleep aid. He immediately noticed that he slept regularly and felt much better. Today, he takes daily walks, attends yoga class and plays pickleball twice a week at the Costa Mesa Recreation Center in addition to tennis. He and his wife are active members of the Mesa Verde United Methodist Church. “The Southern California sunshine certainly helps,” he added.

“I have a new life,” he said. “And I have Dr. Safaei and Hoag to thank.”


Sign up for our Newsletter

Thank you for subscribing to Hoag Hospital Foundation's E-newsletter!