Desiree Gallagher was blind but her eyes blazed with determination.
A plunge from a seventh-floor balcony in London two years ago left Gallagher with a broken spine, loss of her sight and a lasting brain injury. But the 23-year-old vowed she would walk again.
Gallagher was making great progress: She could swim, get dressed, go to the bathroom without assistance and even stand with help. Her well-toned arms were evidence of her commitment to recovery.
“I was so proud of her to see the fight she had in her,” said Gallagher’s mother, Susan Gerth. “She came so far in two years.”
Gallagher died Thursday night after her family took her off life support. She had been in a coma since Monday when staff at her 24-hour care home in Brantford found her without vital signs. Her family doesn’t know what led to her having no vital signs but she had had seizures in the past.
“There’s no words to describe how it feels losing a child,” Gerth said. “I miss her terribly already and I will not stop missing her.”
Gallagher had attended college, had a wide social circle in her hometown of Brantford and loved music and dancing.
Her life as a typical twenty-something changed forever on May 25, 2013, while visiting London with friends. She met Justin Primmer, a convicted killer who had served five years in jail for stabbing a Stratford man to death 10 years ago.
The two were at Primmer’s Talbot St. apartment when Gallagher was badly beaten before falling from the seventh-floor balcony.
Primmer was charged with assault causing bodily harm — the cause of the fall was never determined — because police seized a cellphone containing photographs of Gallagher’s badly beaten face. He pleaded guilty and was given a six-month sentence.
It wasn’t long before Primmer was back in trouble with the law. Within months of being released, he was charged in two assaults in London and Huntsville.
While being held in the Elgin-Middlesex Detention Centre, Primmer also was charged with assault causing bodily harm involving another inmate last October, said Const. Ken Steeves.
Gallagher’s tragic story has united supporters across southern Ontario. More than 100 people turned out for a motorcycle fundraiser last summer, raising around $10,000 to help Gallagher’s family pay for her care.
A second ride is planned for Aug. 22, with a portion of proceeds going to victims of violent crime and the disabled.
“It will be a memorial ride now,” Gerth said.
Gallagher’s family used to bring her home every weekend. That support, they believe, was instrumental to her recovery.
With the goal of taking Gallagher home for good now dashed, the family takes solace knowing she gave life to others.
The young woman with the infectious smile had quietly signed up to be an organ donor.
“She saved people’s lives,” Gerth said.