This woman rushed to the aid of a Danforth shooting victim, and ended up in the line of fire
Danielle Kane has always been one to help.
So it's no surprise to anyone who knows her that — at a popular Italian restaurant on Sunday evening — when a frantic woman ran up, saying someone had been shot on Danforth Avenue, the 31-year-old nursing student and her boyfriend didn't think twice about running to help.
"That's who Dani is," her family said in a statement to CBC News.
"She always stands up for those who need help."
What the pair didn't know was, at that very moment, the shooter had made his way to the side door of the 7Numbers restaurant, gun in hand, and within seconds Kane's life would change forever.
'I can't feel my legs'
A few steps out the door, Kane's boyfriend, emergency room nurse Jerry Pinksen, found himself facing the shooter, locking eyes for a moment with 29-year-old Faisal Hussain.
He heard a clicking sound before seeing Hussain lift his arms, according to Kane's family.
Pinksen ducked behind a patio table and thought he'd avoided disaster. Until he heard a scream.
Danielle is that spark plug. She has a smile and she's bright and colourful and strong.– Byron Abalos, family spokesperson
Kane had followed him outside. And within seconds, she became one of 15 victims of the mass shooting that claimed the lives of 10-year-old Julianna Kozis and 18-year-old Reece Fallon.
The gunman, Hussain, died not long afterward from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head, according to a police source.
Julianna Kozis, left, and Reese Fallon, right, were killed in the rampage on Danforth Avenue. (Toronto Police Service/Facebook)
Of the at least eight bullets fired in their direction, one shattered Kane's T11 vertebra, piercing her stomach and diaphragm.
Pinksen and a few others who had been in the restaurant rushed to bring her inside and immediately began administering first aid.
"I can't feel my legs, I can't feel my legs," Kane said on the ambulance ride to the hospital, according to her family.
A bullet hole on the side wall of 7Numbers, the restaurant where Kane and her boyfriend were dining on Sunday. (CBC)
Long road to recovery
Kane's cousin and family spokesperson Byron Abalos says he was "completely devastated, like the rest of our family," by the shooting.
"Out of our cousins, Danielle is that spark plug. She has a smile and she's bright and colourful and strong," he told CBC News.
"And to think that she might not be able to do to the things that she loves to do, like dance and be athletic and go on hikes," he said. "It's just tragic."
Kane now faces one of the most difficult challenges of her life. Currently under heavy sedation in the intensive care unit at Toronto's St. Michael's Hospital, she is expected to survive but may never walk again.
The #DaniStrong GoFundMe page, launched to help cover the costs of her recovery, outlines her daunting new reality: having to find new housing to accommodate her condition, and months if not years of rehabilitation and specialized care.
"It's still unbelievable," says Abalos, who recently visited Kane in hospital.
"She's hooked up to dozens of machines, her body is a bit pale and it's puffy from all the fluid… You see her there and you're like, 'You were shot.'"
Byron Abalos spoke to CBC News on Thursday about his cousin's ordeal. (CBC)
Tragedy and thanks
But while what happened that night will take months to process, Abalos says one thing that stands out to him is Pinksen.
"Jerry is incredible, the amount of strength he's shown and composure, and talking about the future and how he's in it for the long haul."
"He does not want this to be about him and his actions and there's complicated feelings about this decision to go out and her following him," says Abalos.
"But to me they were both doing something to help someone else."
Kane, left, and her boyfriend Jerry Pinksen in an undated photo. (Submitted by Byron Abalos)
So far, Kane has undergone three surgeries, with another one to go before the week is over.
It's a traumatic time for her family but also one of gratitude, knowing that for the families who lost loved ones Sunday night, there is a hole there will never truly be filled.
There's gratitude too for the first responders, emergency room staff and Dr. Najma Ahmed, the trauma surgeon who saved Kane's life.
"She is a Muslim woman," Abalos says. "And I know that there is some backlash against the Muslim community because of the shooter and I think it's important personally that we all recognize that one person does not represent the entire community.
"I'm pretty confident Dani would feel the same way… she fights for people who are marginalized and oppressed."