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Francesca Galati celebrates a small victory in her room at the Bridgeport Active Healthcare rehabilitation hospital — having just had stitches and staples removed from her left leg, after she broke her tibia to the point where it pierced through her skin more than two weeks ago.
“The tibia, they operated on,” said Galati. “So I have a rod and four or five screws. I just got my stitched out so it’s a little painful today.”
Galati is recovering from a broken collarbone and a broken tibia after she says she was trampled by a stampede of people during the chaos that ensued after the Toronto Raptors championship parade.
“My girlfriend told me that I kept saying, ‘I don’t want to die,'” said Galati.
“I thought I was going to die.”
The 55-year-old was in the midst of more than one million people that attended the NBA Championship celebration, along with her friend and her friend’s son. The event has already been heavily criticized for its lack of organization, citing a lack of security, police presence and barriers to keep fans off the parade route.
A baby also died in hospital after paramedics were unable to reach the infant in the crowd while it was experiencing a medical episode.
Galati said she saw a couple of medical emergencies as well, where paramedics weren’t able to access patients because of the size of the crowd.
“The crowd was chanting ‘medic, medic, medic,’ and it took hours for paramedics to come,” said Galati.
After the parade ended and the players were celebrating on stage at Nathan Phillips Square, people heard the sounds of gunfire.
Galati said she didn’t hear the gunfire, but she knew something was wrong almost immediately.
“We heard a rumbling so we turned to our right… and it was just too late to react at that point,” said Galati. “There was a cloud of smoke from people running so quickly, and then hordes and hordes of people.
“The next thing I know I had people on top of me. I was pretty much at the bottom of a whole bunch of people.”
“I remember vividly one person staring at me,” Galati continued. “I think he had… either his leg or foot on top of me. I think that’s when I broke my collarbone.”
Galati adds that there were about four or five other people beside her who were also being crushed by the crowd. Some of them, she said, appeared to be children.
She was then pulled out of the fast-moving crowd by her friend and her son.
“My girlfriend wanted me to run but I couldn’t,” said Galati. “My tibia was broken at the time; my bone was sticking out.
“But I didn’t feel the pain at all, I was just shocked. I was scared. People were still running and so I thought we were going to get trampled again.”
WATCH: Coverage of the Toronto Raptors championship parade — and aftermath — on Global News
With some help, Galati was able to safely reach an area with some breathing room. She said her friend tried to call 911, but they were put on hold until emergency services called them back about 20 minutes later. Galati adds that paramedics showed up to take her to an ambulance more than half an hour after the call to police.
She said she blames the City of Toronto and police for not planning an organized parade or acknowledging her potentially life-altering injuries.
The Toronto Police Service said it did not keep a count of how many injuries were reported as a result of the stampede of panicked Raptors fan during the championship celebration.
Now Galati is waiting to hear whether she will be able to walk normally again or if the injuries will impact her for the rest of her life.
“Healing might be a thing of the past for me, but I hope not,” said Galati with an optimistic smile.