‘I feel like I have Everest to climb’: Danforth shooting victim on her recovery and future
Danielle Kane has a long road ahead of her, one she likens to climbing Mount Everest.
But as any good climber knows, it’s not the change in altitude that makes a feat accomplishable, but the attitude, and Kane’s attitude is nothing short of optimistic.
The 31-year-old nursing student was attending a friend's birthday dinner with her boyfriend at a popular Italian restaurant on Danforth Avenue when they came face-to-face with a gunman.
That man had already opened fire on unsuspecting diners and pedestrians in the Greektown neighbourhood on the otherwise normal summer evening of July 22.
“We were halfway through our meal when we heard sounds that were similar to fireworks and because of that I dismissed it at first,” she said. “I didn’t think too much about it but then shortly thereafter the waitress came out and said to us that a shooter was nearby and we should get inside immediately.”
Kane said she went inside the restaurant with her boyfriend, Jerry Pinksen, in “complete disbelief.”
“Jerry heard someone shout about an injured person outside and he wanted to go outside and help and he explained that to me very quickly. I thought I should follow him so I followed him outside and very shortly after we exited the side door – seconds after - I made eye contact with who I didn’t know was the shooter,” Kane said. “He immediately, from a calm standing position, picked up his hands and started shooting at us.”
The single bullet entered through her side, tore through her stomach and exited through her back, shattering part of her spine in the process.
“I fell in the doorway as my legs buckled under me after I was shot.”
Kane spent 11 days in a medically-induced coma and underwent several surgeries.
Despite some conflicting medical assessments, she’s accepted her fate.
“I mean obviously I would be happy if I could walk again, right?” she said with a smile.
“But I’m not hoping too much for that. I just want to accept things as they are now, do everything I can to get as well as I can, given my current status, and if things turn out for the better, that would be excellent. Otherwise, I’m okay with the status quo.”
The gunman sprayed bullets into shops and restaurants on that evening, killing 10-year-old Julianna Kozis, 18-year-old Reese Fallon and injuring 13 others.
The 29-year-old was later found dead steps away from the restaurant Kane and Pinksen had been eating. Police have said the gunman shot himself in the head after exchanging gunfire with officers.
Little has been said about his motive but in a statement released days after the shooting, Hussain’s family detailed his history of mental health issues. They said that therapy and medication had been unsuccessful.
The lives of many were changed that night. Kane says she’s still coming to terms with the new elements of hers.
“There’s been good and bad days, really,” she said. “I just try to take it one day at a time.”
Though she has at least two months of rehabilitation ahead of her, Kane will spend her first night away from the centre since being admitted.
On Thursday evening, she will be honoured at a conference in Niagara Falls where she will start a partnership with a healthcare technology company focused on developing new programs.
Kane admits that the little getaway is a bit nerve-racking.
“I feel like I have Everest to climb,” she said.
“Navigating the world, even though there have been a lot of improvements in terms of what’s available for people with disabilities, is difficult…There are still a lot of small things, like a step in front of a restaurant… I constantly have to plan ahead now.”
But she’s taking her new-found platform with stride, noting that much of what the conference is about resonates with values she’s “held closely for a very long time.”
“I feel responsible in a way,” she said.
“I’m going along with what I would’ve done otherwise – I’m just lucky I have a platform.”
Kane was studying at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology prior to the shooting. She said she has every intention of finishing her degree.
Her doctors have told her that she’ll be able to participate in 90 per cent of the activities she did before her injury, which has helped fuel her drive.
Eventually, she hopes to find a place for herself in the nursing world.
“I don’t want others to have to go through what I went through. I wouldn’t want my worst enemy to go through what I’m going through because it’s awful,” she said.
“Obviously no one wants to be paralyzed, but I do feel lucky that I didn’t die. So there’s still a lot of living I can do.”
With files from CTV News Toronto’s Tracy Tong