TORONTO — Danielle Kane struggled with depression in her 20s and even contemplated suicide.
But then she fell in love, enrolled in nursing school and felt she was finally on her way — until a summer night last year when a disturbed man went on a shooting spree in Toronto’s Greektown and a bullet tore through her body.
“Not now,” she thought as she lay on the ground in a pool of blood. “My life is not over.”
Kane, 32, was one of 13 people wounded in the July 22, 2018 rampage that left two dead — Reese Fallon, 18, and Julianna Kozis, 10 — and shocked the city.
That night Kane and her partner, Jerry Pinksen, were celebrating a friend’s birthday on a restaurant patio on Danforth Avenue when they heard what sounded like fireworks. A waitress urged everyone to go inside because there was a shooter on the loose. Kane was incredulous, but she took her glass of wine and followed Pinksen inside.
“We were safe,” she said in a recent interview.
Another patron said there was a victim outside, so Pinksen, an emergency department nurse, rushed out to help. Kane pulled on his arm, briefly worried about his safety, then decided to join him.
“We work in ER together and when there is an emergency, it’s all hands on deck,” she said.
Kane took two steps outside before she saw a dark figure standing on the street, just metres from the pair.
“I do remember thinking how odd it was he was just standing there,” Kane said.
Then she saw the gunman, 29-year-old Faisal Hussain, open fire. She turned slightly and the bullet grazed her left forearm, burning it, before entering her body. It ripped through her abdomen, missed her aorta by a few centimetres and her spinal cord by a millimetre then ricocheted off her spine and exited her body through her right shoulder.
She collapsed and broke her ribs on the fall. She couldn’t feel her legs, and she had trouble breathing — her diaphragm and one lung collapsed, the other lung started to fill with blood.
Pinksen heard her scream and rushed back, carrying her inside the restaurant.
He remembered the shock and anger he felt at that moment.
“Then it clicked, she doesn’t need this, she needs Jerry the nurse now,” he said. He helped stabilize her and they waited until paramedics arrived.
Kane spent the next 11 days in a medically induced coma.
“That was the hardest, her in a coma, on a breathing machine, looking at the screen hoping things get better,” said Pinksen, 35.
Doctors performed four surgeries on Kane.
The first was to fuse her spine after the bullet shattered her T-11 vertebrae. The doctors told her the bullet didn’t sever her spinal cord, but passed so close that the energy from the bullet transferred to the spinal cord, causing massive cell death and leaving her paralyzed from the waist down.
She had three surgeries to repair her abdomen. When surgeons went in to get a look inside, they found food — ceviche and lamb pasta from dinner — all over her chest wall.
“That would have been a huge source of infection,” Pinksen said. “Catching it early saved her life, too.”
The last year has been a journey for the pair.
She spent two months at the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute learning to live as a paraplegic.
“Everything has changed for me,” Kane said.
Pain is her biggest problem now.
“The pain is more disabling than a lack of ability to walk,” Kane said. Her lower back hurts and she has a constant “tingly, burning sensation” in her legs.
“From a caregiver and a partner, sometimes it’s difficult playing those different roles and seeing someone you care about struggle with pain,” Pinksen said. “It’s such a preoccupying force in our lives.”
She said cannabis helps. Physiotherapy also helps, but she’s hit her OHIP-supported limit.
Fortunately, the couple received more than $200,000 from a GoFundMe campaign launched by a friend. With the money, they’re moving to Oshawa, Ont., to be closer to her school, where she hopes to take a few classes come January to ease back into the nursing program. She plans to join a centre where she’ll continue her physiotherapy.
The money has also allowed Pinksen to take a leave from work to help out at home.
“Without that money, I would have been stressed out and my recovery would have been more difficult,” she said. “Maybe that’s why I’m so relaxed. That and Jerry!”
They are renovating the house to make it accessible, the couple said.
Mentally, there have been ups and downs, Kane said. Depression rears its dark head from time to time. But she has found solace in meditation and the idea that life is suffering punctuated with moments of joy.
“I feel with all the suffering I’ve had, I have a great capacity for joy,” Kane said with a laugh.
She sometimes thinks about the past — what it was like to dance and run and jump — that can take her down to a dark place.
“I try to catch myself and distance myself from the thought and let it float away,” she said.
She also thinks about the shooter. Police said Hussain, who killed himself moments after the shooting spree, lived with severe mental health issues since childhood and had a history of harming himself along with a fascination with death and violence.
“I forgive him,” she said. “I definitely have moments where he’s not my favourite person, but I see him as a human being who struggled and didn’t get help. I can only imagine how awful his life must have been to be so isolated and tortured by violent thoughts.”
But she refuses to be kept down.
“I don’t feel traumatized because I’ve taken it back,” she said. “I feel like I don’t want to be a victim. I’m choosing not to be a victim.”
Liam Casey, The Canadian Press
151st Cowichan Exhibition includes new category: best home-grown pot
VICTORIA — One of Canada’s oldest fall fairs is putting a new twist on its annual showcase of local livestock, produce and fruit by adding a new category for best home-grown marijuana.
The Cowichan Exhibition in Duncan, B.C., which dates back to 1868, has created a best cannabis category to embrace legalization and celebrate local pot growers, said exhibition vice-president Bud James.
The fair starts Friday and the cannabis entries will be on display in the main hall at the Cowichan Exhibition Grounds along with the region’s top vegetables, fruits and baked goods. First prize is $5, second is $3 and third place gets a ribbon.
“We just decided this year, because it’s an agricultural product, and it’s been grown in the valley for years, and now that it’s finally legally grown, we would allow people to win a ribbon for the best,” said James.
He said fair officials believe the Cowichan cannabis category is the first of its kind in Canada.
An official at the Canadian Association of Fairs and Exhibitions, a non-profit organization representing rural and urban fairs, said she had not heard of any other cannabis judging contests prior to the Cowichan Exhibition, but couldn’t confirm it was the first.
A fall fair in Grand Forks, B.C., is also judging local cannabis, but the event starts Saturday, one day after Cowichan’s fair. Those who enter the competition in Grand Forks can compete for best indoor- and outdoor-grown cannabis.
James said fair organizers contacted the local council and RCMP prior to adding the cannabis category. The mayor and council did not oppose the contest and the RCMP referred organizers to B.C.’s Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch, the agency monitoring retail sales of non-medical cannabis, he said.
Organizers decided to go ahead with the event after its plans were not rejected, James said.
“Our interpretation of the rules are you can’t make it attractive to people under 19 years and we are not making it attractive,” he said.
James said the cannabis entries will be placed in a glass display case and the individual entries will be sealed in clear zip lock plastic bags.
“It’s being judged to the same standard of judging garden and field produce,” he said. “It’s done by uniformity. You want all three buds to be the same size, same shape, same colour. It’s also the dryness, texture and smell. It’s exactly the same way you would judge apples or carrots or hay bales. It’s all done the same way.”
James said the contest doesn’t involve sampling the product.
Bree Tweet, the manager of a medical cannabis dispensary in nearby Ladysmith, will judge the marijuana entries, said James.
The exhibition received 18 cannabis entries and James said the contest created a buzz at the fair.
“The enthusiasm of the entrants, the people bringing their entry forms, they are so enthusiastic it’s unbelievable,” he said. “They are so thrilled that it’s happening, that we’re doing it because they’ve been waiting for years for legalization and now, they finally got it and now they have a chance to show what they can do.”
James, who has entered his prized Dahlia flowers at past fairs, said the addition of the cannabis category has exceeded expectations with the 18 entries.
Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press
School board defends book pictured on principal’s desk after online uproar
A Toronto-area Catholic school board says an online firestorm that erupted after a book on how to teach black students was photographed on a principal’s desk stems from a misunderstanding over the book’s contents.
The Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board says the book, titled “The Guide for White Women Who Teach Black Boys,” has a provocative title but is actually a helpful resource on tackling racial and cultural oppression in education.
Michelle Coutinho, the board’s principal of equity and inclusive education, says such materials are a particularly useful reference given how diverse the student population is in the district and at that specific school.
The controversy emerged this week after a Brampton, Ont., high school, Cardinal Ambrozic Catholic Secondary School, posted a photo of its new principal on Twitter.
The photo, which shows the book on her desk, set off heated debate, with some suggesting it was a sign of racism or incompetence, or a prop meant to bolster the school’s image.
The image was also shared on instagram by 6ixBuzzTV, a popular account with roughly 1.2 million followers.
“LOOOOL. No principal should make it this far while subsequently needing a book like this,” one person wrote on Twitter. “She a bad principal,” wrote another.
Some defended the book, however, and the principal’s efforts to educate herself. “She’s making an effort to connect with her students, it’s more than most principals do,” another tweet read.
The board said it was surprised by the uproar and hoped people would look up the book before jumping to conclusions based on its title.
The principal intends to address the photo in a public announcement and invite any students with lingering questions to see her, said Bruce Campbell, the board’s spokesman.
The book, written by three researchers and published in 2017, aims to improve outcomes for black students by helping teachers create learning environments in which they feel nurtured and engaged. The title references the fact that white women make up the bulk of the teaching force in the U.S.
Coutinho said the book asks educators to challenge the biases they may bring into the classroom.
“We know that we’re steeped in a colonized kind of world view and how do we break out of that in our everyday practices?” she said, noting it has been used in the board’s anti-oppression training in the past.
Cardinal Ambrozic’s new principal was involved in a book study at several schools that delved deeply into the text last year, Coutinho said.
“If we’re going to make any changes to the education system, we have to start talking about these things and talking about them openly and honestly without shame or blame.”
Paola Loriggio, The Canadian Press
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