When it comes to things that make parents proud, Grace Haines ticks a lot of boxes. She was headed into exams with a 100-per-cent grade average and has been looking forward to studying engineering after graduation. She can dead lift 200 pounds. She has many friends.
Just before 10 p.m. on Jan. 25, the 17-year-old St. Thomas Aquinas student took a break from cramming to go for a run.
“It was about 45 minutes later that I was woken up by my phone ringing, and it was Lions Gate Hospital,” said Chris Haines, Grace’s father.
It’s not known yet exactly what happened, but a passerby – whom Haines describes as an “absolute guardian angel” – found his daughter, the victim of a hit-and-run, on Keith Road near St. Andrews Avenue and called 911.
Grace has been in an induced coma since the time of the incident. She has since had surgery to remove a brain bleed, Haines said, and there are some hopeful signs – she is partially opening her eyes and responding to some verbal instructions.
But they don’t know yet what, if any, lasting impacts the injury will have.
“I just want my daughter to open her eyes again and be OK,” Haines said.
Since the collision, the Haines family has been overwhelmed with offers of help from friends and family and community, especially from members of Gracie Barra North Vancouver, a Brazilian jiu-jitsu centre.
“Just positive thoughts is all we ask from anyone,” he said. “We have an amazing healthcare system in Canada.”
Haines has been suggesting to people who want to help that they donate to the Lions Gate Hospital Foundation so the doctors and nurses there have all the equipment they need for the next patient in trouble.
“Anything you want to do to help the foundation, this hospital has been so amazing,” he said. “I’m going to owe these guys a debt for the rest of my life for saving my daughter. I know she's going to be OK.”
North Vancouver RCMP arrested one person in connection with the hit-and-run within hours of the incident, but the investigation is complex, they say. So far, no charges have been sworn. Investigators are asking anyone who was in the areas of Lynn Valley Centre, Grand Boulevard and Keith Road around the time of the collision to check their dashcam footage or contact the RCMP if they saw a white late model vehicle around that time.
Haines said he is not spending any time thinking about court process ahead, and he views the suspect in the hit-and-run with empathy.
“Whomever is responsible, I can't hate them. I can't have anger towards them because that doesn't accomplish anything. That’s not going to help Grace,” he said. “That person's life is going to be dramatically changed, and I don't have any hatred or ill will. I just have sympathy for them and their family.”
If there is any good that can come from the tragedy, Haines said he hopes everyone will take a moment to think about people like Grace before they put their vehicle in gear.
“I'm not lecturing and pointing fingers. I’m just saying: geez, this has taught me that maybe we need to be more careful when we drive. Maybe we need to slow down a little bit,” he said. “Let me share how much this has hurt me and my family and, maybe we could all agree to just be a little bit better, without getting angry at each other and pointing fingers at each other.”