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A mother's vigil: Girl struck in Saanich crosswalk in December remains in hospital

The mother of 11-year-old Leila Bui has been a constant presence at her child’s hospital bedside since Leila was struck by an SUV at a crosswalk outside her Saanich home on Dec. 20.
Leila Bui-2.jpg
Leila Bui in a family photo. Leila was struck by a car while in a crosswalk on Dec. 20, 2017.

The mother of 11-year-old Leila Bui has been a constant presence at her child’s hospital bedside since Leila was struck by an SUV at a crosswalk outside her Saanich home on Dec. 20.

Physically, Leila is getting stronger, but the damage to her brain is so severe, doctors have not been able to read a neurological response, said Bui, who declined to give her first name. Leila has undergone nine surgeries and remains in Victoria General Hospital’s pediatric intensive care unit.

“She’s recovering well physically but the neurological part, there’s nothing there that says she’s responding neurologically,” she said.

Sometimes Leila, who breathes and eats through tubes, opens her eyes. It’s unclear if she registers what’s going on around her, Bui said.

“We believe she does hear us and she must know we’re there. When she’s uncomfortable, we hold her hands and she seems to calm down.”

Her mother said Leila could soon be transferred to Sunny Hill Health Centre for Children at B.C. Children’s Hospital in Vancouver for rehabilitation therapy. That’s also where her parents will be trained to care for her when she is able to return home, which could be weeks or months away.

Bui said she believes that if Leila’s body recovers, her mind could follow. “If the physical part comes maybe the neurological [part] will come back as well.”

Leila’s doctors have been matter of fact in providing the family with daily updates but are reluctant to talk about the future, Bui said. “They don’t want to give us false hope. They just report on what they see and they don’t go beyond that at all. I wouldn’t say they’re optimistic.”

The family doesn’t always agree with doctors on Leila’s medical care, she said. “We see things differently. They’re coming from a medical perspective and we’re coming from a family perspective. I believe we know her better than they do.”

Bui said she knows her daughter better than anyone and because she’s with her 24 hours a day, she notices progress that doctors might not. “In the end, I know they have her best interests in mind.”

She said she’s grateful for the dedicated nurses and other hospital staff who have looked after Leila during her months in hospital.

Leila’s parents and their two youngest children, Jace, 6, and Myla, 9, have been living at Jeneece Place, which provides accommodation for families with children at Victoria General Hospital. Their oldest daughter, 14-year-old Quynh, has stayed at home with her grandfather and visits Leila after school.

Bui visited her home on Tuesday. She said it feels like a “ghost house” without the typical bustle and organized chaos of a home with four kids.

The family is starting major renovations to prepare for when Leila is finally able to return home in her wheelchair.

“We’re really focused on getting her home to have some normality. Just being home without her feels odd.”

Leila’s parents both work for the provincial government and said they’ve received incredible support as they take time off to care for her.

Saanich police are still investigating what caused the black SUV to strike Leila as she was in the crosswalk at the intersection of Ash Road and Torquay Drive on the morning of Dec. 20. Leila was crossing the street to get a ride to Arbutus Middle School with a classmate. Nearby residents have expressed concern about cars speeding down Ash Road but Saanich police crash analysts have not confirmed that speed was a factor.

Before the crash, Leila was an energetic kid who loved doing science experiments. She was always eager to teach her younger siblings things she had learned, her mother said.

“It was one second and our lives changed,” Bui said.

She said the family doesn’t waste much energy thinking about the driver of the SUV.

“Anger toward the driver is not going to change that fact that Leila is where she is,” she said. “If [the driver] is at fault, I would like to see her charged. But that doesn’t change the fact that Leila is hurt.”

kderosa@timescolonist.com

• There are two online fundraisers for Leila and her family: gofundme.com/leilabuimedicalfund and gofundme.com/little-leila