VANCOUVER - Desiree Evancio is already recovering from her third life-saving surgery in Vancouver General Hospital and preparing for a marathon surgery to reconstruct her face on Wednesday after a motorist hit and dragged her for five city blocks.
Vancouver police say the 24 year-old had been on East Hastings Street just after midnight Saturday when an American driver behind the wheel of a van with a trailer in tow, hit her and dragged her for blocks before realizing she was even there.
"It’s just hard to talk about," said Ashley Danh, choking up when asked to describe her sister. "She’s fun and outgoing and the life of the party and adventurous."
But Danh says her younger sister is facing a six to twelve month stay in hospital for countless reconstructive surgeries to her face, and more to her limbs when they’ve had a chance to heal. The Burnaby resident will also need a prosthetic eye to replace the one she lost in the collision and trauma resulting from the extensive incident.
"She's alive and her vitals are good and her heart's beating but she's just in bed waiting -- she doesn't know the severity of what she has gone through," explained Danh.
Her family is now fundraising for expenses in what’s expected to be a very long and very difficult recovery.
Since the driver is an American citizen, the family is concerned he may not have adequate medical coverage to cover Evancio’s rehabilitation, living and other recovery expenses. Our CTV News camera captured commercial plates from the state of Illinois on the van.
While Vancouver police say the driver appears to have been impaired and that alcohol may have played a role, they’re cautious when discussing whether it was a major factor in the collision, which they describe as trapping Evancio under the van.
When CTV asked whether the U.S. citizen behind the wheel has a restriction from leaving the country, a VPD spokesperson said he was briefly arrested at the scene and has since been released and is being cooperative with investigators.
"There have been no charges laid," explained Sgt. Steve Addison. "We cannot compel anyone to stay in Canada without the charges being laid or without some sort of a court order."
He cautions that the investigation could take weeks if not months and is asking anyone with dashcam footage driving on East Hastings in the very early hours of Saturday to come forward.
Evancio’s family say her jaw is broken in three places and she hasn’t been able to communicate with them. A GoFundMe page outlines her life-altering injuries and the kind of rehabilitation they expect she’ll face long-term. Doctors will attempt reconstructive surgery Wednesday in a procedure expected to take eight to 10 hours.
"She'll have countless more over the next six months to a year," said Danh, who’s grateful for the donations already coming in.
"Everybody's very supportive and we have a lot of family in Ontario helping a lot as well when it comes to spreading awareness of what happened to my sister."