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'He will never be the same boy': Mother shares story after son struck by impaired driver in Ottawa

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A Gatineau mother is sharing her 8-year-old son’s story after the vehicle he was in was struck by an impaired driver six months ago, and is still trying to rebuild his life.

"Maybe he does not have life-threatening injuries right now, but they're definitely life-altering," Cora Hunter says. "He'll never be the same boy."

According to Ottawa Police, officers responded to a four-vehicle collision at the intersection of Blair and Ogilvie Roads on December 22, 2023, just after 11 p.m.

A 23-year-old man was arrested at the scene and is facing a number of charges, including impaired driving causing bodily harm and dangerous driving causing bodily harm.

Hunter says her son Jayden, who was seven at the time, was coming home with his uncle from a Christmas Party, when their car was struck at an east-end intersection. She then received a call that no mother ever wants to receive.

"In the background, I could hear the ambulance and the screaming…just everything that was happening," Hunter tells CTV News Ottawa. "And then they put me on speaker and Jay heard my voice and he started screaming for me. It’s the worst call you could ever get."

Jayden’s femoral vein was severed, and he was losing a lot of blood. He also had multiple injuries, including several pelvic fractures. He was rushed to CHEO. His mother says there was fear he was going to be paralyzed.

Jayden does not remember much from the accident.

"Everything went in slow motion, I saw the car speeding," Jayden said.

"I felt my whole body felt numb." 

After that, he only remembers waking up in hospital.

"It was scary. I like I woke up, for a few seconds and I saw the word CHEO."

Nearly six months later, Jayden’s life has forever changed. He spends hours every day in rehab and doing physiotherapy. He uses a wheelchair and needs help performing daily tasks.

Because of his stay in hospital, he missed a lot of school. Jayden says he misses his friends, and no longer can play the sports he loves.

Last week, the family received news that Jayden will never be able to walk on his own. The family has installed specialized equipment to help Jayden in their home, including accessibility ramps.

Both Jayden and Cora Hunter are sharing their story to emphasize the lasting impact impaired driving can have on innocent victims.

Hunter hopes that when people hear her son’s story, they will think twice about getting behind the wheel impaired.

"I'm disappointed and hurt that this happened to us. A little bit mad. So disappointed."

Jayden warns others about driving impaired, "Because they can kill people. Even though they're not attending on it."

It is a message Ottawa police are emphasizing after impaired driving-related charges continue to rise year over year in our city.

In 2023, there were 885 impaired driving charges. Just over 254 collisions that year were related to impaired driving.

Police say already this year, there have been 342 impaired driving charges.

"Unfortunately, we continue to notice a disturbing trend, which is an increase in drivers being charged with impaired driving-related offenses," Sgt. Amy Gagnon says.

"We haven't even hit our six month mark; we still have the summer period and our Christmas period, which are unfortunately our busy ones. And we're almost halfway at what we were last year when it comes to the number of drivers that have been charged."

Gagnon emphasizing impaired driving includes both alcohol and cannabis. “When people either drink or they consume cannabis, we do know that being impaired is it affects your judgment. And unless you have made plans ahead of time on how to get home after your evening or day of celebrating, you think you're okay to drive when really you're not. And that remains the biggest problem.”

Police says the trend is concerning.

"People can say, ‘impaired driving is just a traffic violation.’ But it's not. Somebody can be stopped if they haven't struck anyone or anything. But what about those that have been involved in collisions? What about those that have been struck by an impaired driver? Maybe they're injured, maybe they're not. But these people have to live with some consequences too."

Gagnon says, "Sometimes it's emotional. Sometimes they are talking about post-traumatic stress, sometimes its life-altering changes. And we kind of forget that those are members of our community and their suffering and impaired driving can be prevented. And I think we need to focus on that and we need to remind ourselves we don't need this to happen in our community."

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