Grant Virgin: Why John and JJ Virgin share their son’s story

Before I walked into Grant Virgin’s hospital room for the first time, the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles media director called me.

Grant is not in your typical hospital room, he told me, warning me about the Posey bed — a tent-like cover that can be zipped up and clipped closed for his own security and for those around him.

I had reported on Grant’s injuries since Sept. 10, the night he was struck by a car in a hit and run in Palm Desert.

The 16-year-old’s bones were broken from head to toe, his aorta was crushed and his brain was rocked inside his head. He should have died.

I thought I was prepared to see him.

But actually walking into Grant’s hospital room — seeing the scar on his head,  watching his labored movements and sensing his exhaustion – was a different experience.

It sunk in how much this young man’s life was derailed by only a second or two one warm fall evening. It made my heart hurt for him.

His parents, John and JJ Virgin, agreed to let a reporter, photographer and videographer share their family’s story.

(story, photos, videos from inside his hospital room) 
(how many, why and what our lawmakers have to say about it) 


They opened the door for the community to see the heartbreak of Grant’s crash, their unwavering belief in integrative medicine and their differing opinions on the hit-and-run driver who altered the course of all their lives.

Most of all, they told me, they’re grateful to a community that has supported Grant’s journey. That’s what has kept their faith in the goodness of people.

But this is only the beginning of a different life for Grant, his parents and his younger brother, Bryce.

And it is only the start of our questions for lawmakers, police and state leaders about how we can create a better system that will help find justice for Grant and thousands of other hit-and-run victims.

How to help: 

Palm Desert police asked anyone with information about Grant’s crash to call (760) 836-1600Coachella Valley Crime Stoppers collects anonymous tips at (760) 341-7867.

The Virgin family is also accepting donations to help cover Grant’s medical expenses via Paypal (

Palm Desert police field few tips in Grant Virgin’s hit-and-run crash

More than a week after 16-year-old Grant Virgin was critically injured, Palm Desert police have fielded only three tips about the hit-and-run crash.

None of the tips have panned out so far, Lt. Bill Sullivan told my colleague Sherry Barkas today.

The Palm Desert High School junior was walking toward a friend’s house when he was struck about 7:35 p.m. Sept. 10 at Deep Canyon Road and Fred Waring Drive in Palm Desert.

Several witnesses saw the driver get out of her car, survey the damage to her car and look at the boy lying in the road, Capt. Kevin Vest said. She then drove away. Other drivers called 911, blocked off the road and tried to help the teen.

Chances are high that hit-and-run drivers in a case like this will get away, police told us — unless someone can lead investigators to the car.


How Grant is doing

The crash caused devastating injuries to Grant, breaking bones from his skull to his heel and crushing his aorta. Only 10 percent of people with his kind of aorta damage survive the initial injury. Even fewer live past the ride to the hospital. Fewer yet survive the transfer to another hospital.

Grant remains hospitalized at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center.

Doctors began easing the sedation Tuesday, hoping Grant will wake up in the next few days so they can reevaluate the injuries to his brain.

“Grant is trying to open his eyes. He will open them a sliver when you ask him,” his mom, JJ Virgin, wrote on her Facebook page this morning. She has been detailing his progress.

His parents have been overwhelmed by emails, Facebook messages, text messages and Tweets. Both say they regret they haven’t been able to respond to everyone, but are blown away by the support.

“Were it under different circumstances, I don’t know if I could handle the heartwarming,” his father, John, told me.

When I met with Grant’s dad last week, I asked what his family needs: “Prayer,” John said. “Prayers are powerful medicine.”

Read more of John’s interview here.


About the driver, her vehicle

Because of the time and location of the crash, Vest said the driver who hit Grant likely lives and works in the Coachella Valley.

Witnesses described her as a Hispanic woman, about 30 years old. She was about 5 feet, 6 inches tall and weighed about 150 pounds. She had black, shoulder-length hair.

The vehicle was a two-door, white car made in the early 2000s.

Palm Desert police ask anyone who knows anything about the crash, or has seen a similar vehicle with front-end damage, to call investigators at (760) 836-1000.

Anonymous tipsters can call Valley Crime Stoppers at (760) 341-7867 or email Refer to case T122540079.