A Calgary teenager who was critically injured when she was struck by an SUV on April 14 is speaking out about her recovery and warning drivers to watch out for pedestrians.
Gabby Oliveira suffered fractures to her face, arm and clavical when she was hit while walking in a marked crosswalk at 90 Avenue and Bay Ridge Drive S.W. She also suffered a brain injury that affects her short-term memory.
When Dez Desjardins noticed someone was lying in the crosswalk on 90 Avenue from his nearby home, the retired Air Force fire marshal went out to see if he could help.
Desjardins was stunned to find out the girl who had been struck by an SUV was his stepdaughter.
“I said to myself, ‘You’ve done this before. You’ve done motor-vehicle accidents before,’ and automation kicked in. I called out to her and she opened her eyes,” Desjardins said.
Oliveira was rushed to the hospital in critical condition.
“I had to leave the scene and go pick up her mom who was at work, and all the while thinking Gabby was not going to make it,” Desjardins said. “When we arrived at the hospital, they brought us right into the ICU and they started to explain the injuries to us.
“They were astonished with how she had survived that accident.”
On Sunday, Oliveira celebrated her 16th birthday — thankful to be alive, but disheartened by her painful road to recovery.
“You feel so anxious and you feel like everything is stressful and you’re in pain… recovery is not easy,” the Grade 10 student said.
Oliveira’s family is also thankful for the generosity of community members who set up a fundraiser and brought over meals while both parents were spending most of their time at the Alberta Children’s Hospital for 42 days.
“The very first person that arrived at our house filled a cooler for us,” Desjardins said. “And then we had about a dozen people drop off meals and soups, and continuous offers from the community for help.”
Police are still investigating the crash. Desjardins said he was told that one vehicle had stopped for his stepdaughter while another proceeded.
Police said the driver remained at the scene. Alcohol, drugs and speed are not considered factors.
The incident has left Oliveira even more nervous about crossing 90 Avenue and she hopes drivers learn from her trauma.
“I was crossing the crosswalk properly because I’ve always been scared to cross it,” she said. “I know I looked properly. I know I felt safe enough to cross it and that (I) was truly betrayed.”
Since the crash, a community member has lobbied the city to set up pedestrian lights at 90 Avenue and Bay Ridge Drive. The city now plans to install a full traffic signal there by early next year.