More than two months after getting struck by a van and dragged for up to seven blocks in the Downtown Eastside, a Vancouver woman has been released from the hospital into a rehabilitation centre, her family and friends confirm.
Even more remarkably, friends say Desiree Evancio has started walking, after the family had been told there was a chance she might never walk again.
“She’s doing really well,” Evancio’s roommate Katarina Radovic told Global News Sunday. “She’s come a long, long way. Even in the last two weeks, her progress has been so significant.”
Radovic confirmed Evancio was released from Vancouver General Hospital on Thursday and is now in the GF Strong Rehabilitation Centre.
The devastating incident on Oct. 12 left the 25-year-old with life-changing injuries, including traumatic damage to her face.
She also spent nearly a month in and out of consciousness, finally awaking fully mid-November.
She’s since undergone multiple surgeries on her legs and face, including skin grafts and reconstruction. Most recently, procedures were done to start reconstructing Evancio’s upper and lower lips, which her sister Ashley Danh says went very well.
Danh said while Evancio still has a tracheotomy tube in her throat in advance of further surgeries, her sister is now talking much more than she could before, when she was communicating through written messages.
Earlier in December, Danh said Evancio began physiotherapy on her knees. A pin was inserted in her right knee to help it heal after it was found to not be performing well, and her right leg is now in a brace.
Radovic, who last saw Evancio Friday, says her friend is now “walking all by herself,” although she needs help now and again.
“She’s a very ambitious girl,” she said. “I think a lot of it is more her wanting to do it by herself.”
Evancio has also been able to start moving her left arm again, Radovic said, after Danh had previously been told by doctors that it would be permanently set at a 90-degree angle.
“I think the mind is a really powerful thing, and that’s what took her to where she is.”
While a GoFundMe page has now raised over $250,000, other fundraising efforts are continuing in Vancouver to help Evancio and her family.
A benefit concert held at the Railway Club on Sunday saw friends gather to try and keep the momentum going into 2020.
“We want today to be more about celebrating her move out of hospital, and we also want to thank Vancouver,” friend Alexandra McCaffrey said.
“We want to thank everyone for rallying around her this year, and for being so generous and giving.”
McCaffrey and Radovic say there’s much more that lies ahead in Evancio’s recovery. The family met with a prosthetic surgeon last month to discuss replacements for Evancio’s nose and eye, while her teeth and other parts of her face also need work.
But Evancio is already feeling well enough to start venturing out in public, showing up at the Shark’s Club where she worked for her 25th birthday on Dec. 12 — exactly two months after the accident.
“She was completely comfortable being there. It was amazing,” Radovic said.
“We were like, ‘Wow, you are so brave.’ She’s really an inspiration.”
Vancouver police say it 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 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.
As Evancio’s recovery continues, her friends and family are a lot more optimistic than they were just weeks ago — but they say Evancio is feeling that same optimism.
“In her eyes, it seems like she feels like she has a lot to celebrate,” McCaffrey said.
“She’s happy everyone’s supporting her, she feels encouraged. There’s lots of good energy that’s being radiated out from all of these fundraisers that she can hold on to, and she’s happy to be living.”
—With files from Grace Ke