Editor’s Note: This story has been updated with information from Evancio’s family
Friends of a Vancouver woman who was struck by a van and dragged for up to seven blocks in the Downtown Eastside earlier this month are doing all they can to raise funds for her recovery.
The incident left 24-year-old Desiree Evancio with life-changing injuries, including traumatic damage to her face.
On Sunday, Evancio’s best friend and roommate helped organize a fundraising event at the Lamplighter Pub in Gastown, not far from where the horrific collision occurred.
“She’s going to be in the hospital for six months to a year. She’s not going to leave that bed for a really long time,” Katarina Radovic said. “Even after that, she’s going to go into a rehabilitation facility, which the hospital’s not going to pay for.”
Evancio’s sister Ashley Danh says rehab would be paid through either the Medical Services Plan (MSP) or ICBC.
Radovic and several other friends gathered at the Lamplighter to sell raffle tickets to help reach a $1-million goal set by a GoFundMe created in the wake of the accident. More than $190,000 has been raised so far.
Evancio’s injuries are expected to affect her for the rest of her life. According to Danh, she has undergone multiple surgeries, including a procedure that took place almost two weeks ago when doctors took muscle and tissue from her stomach, and put it in the missing areas in her face, then grafted skin from her leg to seal the wound. This past Friday another surgery was performed on her legs.
Evancio’s family says reconstruction surgery hasn’t happened yet.
The friend group is also working towards raising money for a possible prosthetic eye to replace the one Evancio lost in the accident.
“The focus right now is on her face and making her hopefully feel comfortable again with looking at herself in the mirror,” she said.
Despite the long list of injuries, Radovic says her friend’s prognosis is beginning to improve.
“At the beginning, they were saying she might not ever be able to walk again, but that’s looking a lot less likely and now she may be able to walk again,” she said.
She added the group may also look at raising funds to improve her walking so she doesn’t have to rely on a cane or other support.
“She loves hiking, she loves to do active things,” she said. “It’s going to break her heart, all of this is going to break her heart.”
Radovic says Evancio remains heavily sedated to prevent her from moving as she recovers from her first jaw surgery and skin grafts, which were done to prevent infection.
While she’s been in and out of consciousness prior to that surgery, Radovic says Evancio “doesn’t know the extent” of what happened, she said. “And that’s the next step.”
Vancouver police say it now appears Evancio was walking between the van and cargo trailer as it was stopped in traffic.
The driver, who has since been identified as a member of touring U.S. punk band Off With Their Heads, did not realize Evancio was pinned under the vehicle until he parked, according to police. A “degree of alcohol impairment” was detected, but police are still working to determine if that played a role.
It’s not clear what Evancio was doing on East Hastings Street at the time of the collision. Danh said Evancio had gone to Playland with friends earlier in the evening, but her final hours before the incident remain unclear.
Radovic says that night was a rare one when she and Evancio were not together. While she questions what might have happened if she had been there, she says she doesn’t blame anyone for the accident.
“It’s not her fault, it’s not that guy’s fault, it’s not really anybody’s fault,” she said. “Things happen, and unfortunately it happened to such a severity that you can’t even imagine.”
For now, Radovic says she’s focused on ensuring Evancio’s recovery, adding the support she and the family have received is proof many more want the same.
“You can tell there’s such a huge community of people who miss her and miss that energy,” she said. “It seems so small until it’s taken away and you realize you may never have it again.”
—With files from Grace Ke and Simon Little