Woman dragged for blocks by van in DTES now awake and aware of her injuries, family says

Desiree Evancio now awake, communicating with family
We're learning more about how a young woman is doing after she was dragged for blocks on Vancouver's Downtown Eastside last month. Jill Bennett reports.

The woman who was struck by a van and dragged for up to seven blocks in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside last month is finally awake and aware of her injuries, her family says.

The Oct. 12 incident left Desiree Evancio with life-changing injuries, including traumatic damage to her face.

Evancio’s sister, Ashley Danh, told Global News Saturday that the 24-year-old has been awake for a number of days and has been able to communicate with her family through writing.

“She doesn’t have the capability to talk at the moment, it takes too much strength to do that,” Danh said.

“She asks about how life is outside the hospital, what’s going on. Just family stuff.”

Fundraiser for woman dragged beneath trailer in Vancouver
Fundraiser for woman dragged beneath trailer in Vancouver

Dahn said Evancio now understands “everything” about what happened to her in the early morning hours of Oct. 12.

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“Not everything was said to her at one time,” she said.

“When she fully started to wake up, she was kind of able to piece together a few things at a time just on her own. So that kind of made it easier when we sat down with the surgeon and gave her the general, all-around what happened, because she had kind of figured it out already.”

READ MORE: Friends doing all they can to raise money for Vancouver woman dragged by van in DTES

According to Danh, Evancio has undergone multiple surgeries, including a procedure that took place last month 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.

She was heavily sedated for nearly two weeks to allow her face to heal, which also forced the removal of her neck brace to allow bloodflow and circulation.

Another surgery was performed on her legs in late October to cover those injuries.

Evancio is now preparing for the reconstruction of her lower lip on Monday, Dahn said. Her upper lip will be reconstructed at a later date.

U.S. punk band member involved in DTES dragging accident
U.S. punk band member involved in DTES dragging accident

The family has also met with a prosthetic surgeon. While the family already knew Evancio would have a prosthetic eye, they’ve now learned her nose will be replaced as well.

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“Desiree was very eager to meet with [the surgeon], because she had a lot of questions,” she said. “His job is a long way away, but he needs to start doing the work now.
“He gave us a couple examples of what his patients look like after the fact, which I think gave [Desiree] some peace of mind because she couldn’t tell the difference between which [eye] was real and which one was not.”

READ MORE: Family says woman dragged under van in Vancouver’s DTES will need lifetime to heal

Dahn said there are several more steps to take before Evancio’s face is fully formed again. Questions about replacing her teeth and further skin grafts still have to be determined.

“Her whole face is going to be reconstructed, so who knows what she’ll look like,” she said.

“But obviously their job is to make her look as normal as possible and as comfortable as possible.”

Despite the long road to recovery ahead, Dahn said Evancio is keeping things as positive as she can.

Vancouver woman dragged under vehicle undergoes fourth surgery
Vancouver woman dragged under vehicle undergoes fourth surgery
“She’s on heavy anti-depressants, but I think the fact that she knows she’s still alive and with us [is helpful],” she said. “Something we actually talked about today is that at least she has the one eye, so it’s not like she lost sight of the world in general.

“She seems to be doing better than I would, probably.”

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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.

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READ MORE: Woman dragged by van in Vancouver walked between vehicle, trailer: police

It’s still not clear what Evancio was doing on East Hastings Street at the time of the collision. Danh has said Evancio had gone to Playland with friends earlier in the evening.

A GoFundMe started by Evancio’s friends has now raised nearly $230,000, and fundraising efforts are also being held in Vancouver and Ottawa. An event is taking place on Tuesday at the Shark Club, where Evancio worked before the crash.

Dahn wrote in an update on the GoFundMe page Friday that Evancio has been told about the money raised.

“Although she can’t make much of a facial reaction to things right now, you could see it in her eye that a weight of financial burden was lifted from the many things running through her head,” Dahn wrote.

— With files from Jill Bennett