Brenda Palmieri is still in the intensive care unit at Vancouver General Hospital after being injured in a hit-and-run accident on Prince George’s Hart Highway in mid-December.
She can’t walk as she has a fracture in her hip as well as an open wound on her leg that will need skin grafts.
“Hopefully in the near future, I can start practicing getting up and walking and taking a few steps and what not,” said Palmieri, during a phone interview from her hospital bed in Vancouver.
The 37-year-old expectant mother was struck and left lying on Highway 97 at Noranda Road on Friday, Dec. 16 at around 7 p.m. Her unborn son did not survive.
A passerby who happened to be a lifeguard with advanced first aid training stopped to help Palmieri while bystanders offered a scarf to wrap around her leg and a coat to cover her until paramedics arrived.
The driver, however, fled the scene but was eventually located by Prince George RCMP on Dec. 22.
Palmieri lived at a house on the Hart Highway with her husband Wade, but that night she was on her way to stay at her father-in-law’s house.
Her father-in-law was sick and had just been released from the hospital, so Wade was staying there for a few days to look after him.
“I had also remembered that I had a few other doctor's appointments the following Monday and because I don’t drive it’s easier for me to get to my appointments from my father-in-law’s house.”
She left her house at about 6:30 p.m. went to the gas station across the street to buy some gum and called a cab.
“I was on the sidewalk waiting for my cab and that is the last thing I remember. Next thing I remember is waking up five days later in the ICU in Vancouver.”
She said Wade was wondering why she suddenly stopped responding to his text messages and wasn’t aware she was in an accident until he was contacted by a hospital social worker.
“By the time they got a hold of my husband and he got to the hospital our son had already passed so, unfortunately, neither one of us got to hold him or see him,” explained Palmieri. “Thankfully, the hospital was kind enough to get handprints and footprints and they took some pictures after they got him cleaned up and got him dressed so at least we have some memories of him.”
Their son, whom they named Maverick, was scheduled to be born by C-section just three-weeks later on Jan. 3.
“I am sure the team in Prince George did the best they could, but I laid there hemorrhaging for too long and Maverick just didn't make it,” said Palmieri.
“That was difficult. I had surgery to clean the wound on my leg on Jan. 3 and that was difficult knowing I was supposed to be going into a C-section to deliver our son and instead I was getting my leg repaired.”
She said a lot of people have shown their support for the family and Assman’s Funeral Home in Prince George also donated cremation services free of charge.
However, Palmieri said they’ve been upset by derogatory online comments from people who’ve been speculating about the accident.
“There was some confusion as there was another pedestrian on the road, two hours before I went out, that was under the influence, staggering around, and was on and off the road or whatnot.”
She said people had mixed them up and assumed they were the same person and that she had either been under the influence or on the road when it wasn’t safe.
“It was hurtful to see comments like that, especially after everything that our family has gone through, and then to have people think that I was doing that, or I was at fault in any way for this accident.”
Palmieri said she spoke to the investigator in charge of her file who confirmed she was not at fault and said she encourages people to pause before making hurtful comments online.
“The hardest part is that we lost our son and we’re in this horrible situation and people are just making assumptions about a situation they know absolutely nothing about. Even if I was on the road, that doesn't mean that I deserve to be hit, and my son deserved to be killed.”
She was also told by investigators that the driver is remorseful and has now been 100 per cent cooperative after initially fleeing the scene. Charges remain pending completion of an RCMP investigation.
“I think he just panicked. I’m sure it was a shock to him.”
However, Palmieri said she urges drivers, especially on the Hart Highway, to be cautious and slow down.
“I don't think anything's that important that you need to be rushing for.”
Palmieri and her husband will be relocating to Kelowna once she’s discharged from the hospital as she will need to be there for rehab and physiotherapy, and because they have a strong support system of friends and family in the area.
The couple also has a GoFundMe set-up to help cover medical and funeral expenses as the family struggles to get back on their feet during Palmeri’s recovery.
“We want to thank the people that have sent words of encouragement and support to us,” she said.
Aside from the small handful of people that were rude, Palmieri is grateful for the majority of people and the large outpouring of support.
“That's been nice to knowing that, you know, complete strangers are thinking about us and our son Maverick. We don’t want him forgotten.”