Danielle Kane
Danielle Kane's road to recovery continues, but she can smile again thanks to the care she received at Toronto Rehab, Lyndhurst Centre. (Photo: The KITE Research Institute at UHN)

July 22, 2018 was one of those magical summer Toronto evenings, perfect for enjoying a meal or having a drink outdoors. It was also supposed to be a night of celebration for Danielle Kane, a 31-year-old nursing student who was at a friend's birthday at 7Numbers, a popular restaurant on the always busy Danforth Avenue.

Kane and her friends were on the patio, like countless other people that night, when they heard a bang – it sounded like a car backfiring or fireworks going off. Almost immediately, she rushed inside the restaurant where she ran into another reveler, yelling hysterically, who said she saw someone get shot nearby.

Alarmed, Kane and her boyfriend, Jerry Pinksen, an emergency room nurse, rushed out to see if they could help.

"I have always cared deeply about others," she says. But Kane was scarcely out the door when a bullet struck her, too, shattering a vertebra in her lower back. She screamed, fell to the ground and thought about how she didn't want to die. Pinksen carried her back inside the restaurant and helped stabilize her until paramedics arrived.

Kane soon learned that a disturbed gunman shot and killed two young people that night, and that she was one of 13 others who were wounded.

"All it takes is one accident, one instance of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, and everything changes," she says.

Canada's largest freestanding spinal cord injury rehabilitation facility

As bad as the shooting was, the nightmare was just beginning. Kane spent two weeks in an induced coma, underwent four surgeries, then spent several more weeks in the neuro trauma unit at St. Michael's Hospital.

She was eventually transferred to Toronto Rehab's Lyndhurst Centre, where she discovered her diagnosis was permanent paraplegia – motor complete spinal cord injury at the T11 level, which means the 11th of 12 thoracic vertebrae located in the mid-back was damaged – which left her with no sensation and no ability to move from the belly button down.

"I was devastated," she recalls. "I just cried. It was so hard to imagine how I would get through life this way."

Fortunately, Lyndhurst specializes in caring for patients with spinal cord injuries (SCI) resulting from trauma (car accidents, falls and gunshot wounds) or disease to recover and adjust to their new circumstances.

In operation since 1945, Lyndhurst is Canada's largest freestanding spinal cord injury rehabilitation facility, admitting more than 300 in-patients each year, and supporting more than 20,000 outpatient visits across 17 outpatient clinics.

"The centre's interprofessional teams provide a wide range of therapies and services to help patients learn to compensate for any motor function they may have lost, psychologically reframe their lives with new goals or life objectives, and, in some cases, repair neurological damage," says Dr. Cathy Craven, medical lead for Toronto Rehab's Spinal Cord Rehabilitation Program and a Senior Scientist and leader of the Neural Engineering and Therapeutics (NET) team at KITE, the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute's research arm.

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