Jerry Pinksen introduced his girlfriend, Danielle Kane, to all the expected things on her first trip to Newfoundland over Christmas. The couple visited friends and family in Pinksen’s hometown of Straitsview on the Northern Peninsula and spent time outdoors enjoying the winter weather.
“I got to ride on a Ski-Doo for the first time, and I drove it too,” Kane told The St. John’s Morning Show. She called the experience “exhilarating,” even if she was surprised by how cold her thumbs got.
“Remember, she’s still a mainlander,” Pinksen joked. “There’s only so much we can do; she’s not so tough as us.”
But Kane is actually plenty tough, as her boyfriend of two years and many others have seen first-hand over the past few months. The ability to travel for a Christmas vacation in rural Newfoundland is one sign — of many — of how much the Toronto woman has recovered since she was injured in the July 22 shooting in the city’s Danforth neighbourhood.
“It was fantastic. I loved it. Everyone was so warm and welcoming,” Kane said. The trip came just five months after she spent 11 days in a medically induced coma in intensive care, the start of her long recovery from injuries that left her in a wheelchair.
“I felt like I was coming home even though I hadn’t met a lot of the folks up there.”
July 22 shooting
On the evening of July 22, Pinksen and Kane were having dinner with a friend on the patio of the Danforth’s 7Numbers restaurant when they heard gunshots.
The group ran inside for shelter but Pinksen, an emergency room nurse, left to help when he heard someone outside had been shot.
“With my medical training I knew I could help this person, so I told Danielle, ‘I have to exit, I have to help this woman,'” he said.
He didn’t know that Kane, a nursing student herself who had first aid training, had followed him to the restaurant’s emergency exit.
“I didn’t think that Jerry should go out by himself because in any emergency situation you’re going to want all hands on deck,” Kane said.
If the gunshot was just a little bit higher, I probably would not have made it.– Danielle Kane
Pinksen was able to duck out of the way when he saw the shooter, Faisal Hussain, raise a gun, but Kane was hit while standing in the exit.
“I was told that if the gunshot was just a little bit higher, I probably would not have made it,” she said.
Recovering from injuries
Though she survived the shooting, her injuries mean she will remain in a wheelchair, Kane said.
Her T11 vertebra was shattered, and doctors had to fuse her T10 and T20 vertebrae. She also needed three abdominal surgeries to clean internal debris left by injuries to her stomach, she said.
“My abdomen was left open for three days because there was too much swelling.”
However, Kane says she has recovered significantly since the shooting and expects to continue to do so through her ongoing rehabilitation in Toronto.
“I’ve learned that basically I can still gain back a lot of independence. I’ll be able to drive again, I’ll be able to return to work, and I’ll still be able to have children,” she said.
“It’s not a death sentence.”
She hopes to regain her licence in the spring, and plans to intern with the Ontario Nurses’ Association this summer before resuming her nursing studies in September.
Pinksen said he’s not prepared to return to work in an emergency room, but he hopes to continue to deal with the trauma of the shooting and reassess his readiness in a few months.
For now, he said, he is focusing on helping Danielle recover, especially considering the benefit his medical experience brings to their situation.
“It’s better for us to be healing together and while I can help Danielle the best way I can, being a nurse,” he said.
Having Pinksen’s help, as well as the support of family and friends, has been key in staying optimistic about the future, Kane said.
“It’s been amazing. Everyone asks me, ‘Why are you doing so well?’ And I’m like, ‘I have such great support.'”
Focused on the future
Pinksen and Kane continue to have some sympathy for Hussain, 29, who killed himself after the shooting, in which he injured 13 people and killed two.
The two have had a lot to process since Kane was released from the hospital, but both still believe Hussain must have been struggling himself to act as he did.
“I still believe in my heart that this person was suffering,” said Pinksen.
“He had to be suffering to think and plan out such an assault on all these individuals and want to bring so much terror and pain.”
Kane pointed to her own history with depression, saying that she believes Hussain must have been not only disturbed, but isolated and lonely.
“I try to think about how my depression affected my life before, and how maybe I didn’t appreciate what I had, all the good things I had in my life before,” she said.
Focusing on that good has helped her recovery, Kane said, because it has helped her realize how much love she has in her life and how much living she has left to do.
The couple tries to look toward the full life they have ahead instead of back on what happened, Pinksen said.
“We try not to dwell on him or that, and just know that we’re still lucky to be alive, we’re still lucky to have each other, and we’re just going to look forward.”
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