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Student nearly killed in November hit-and-run still recovering

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It's been nearly four months since Rebekka Peterson was struck by a car, nearly killed after suffering from severe brain damage and broken bones.

She and her friend Nicholas Bergeland, both students at the University of St. Thomas, were stepping out of a cab along the 1900 block of Grand Avenue in St. Paul. It was an early Sunday morning in November. They were with a group of three other people.

Then the car came, and just as quickly went – the gray 2013 Mazda that hit the two 22-year-olds, sending them in critical condition to Regions Hospital.

Peterson's parents recently spoke exclusively with WCCO about that night. The young student from Farmington had several broken bones, eye damage, and a serious brain injury, the station reports. Doctors told the two Bekka would most likely be in a vegetative state; they needed to decide how long their daughter should live like that. Bekka's father fainted.

Bekka was in a coma for nearly a month. But she lived.

Now she's on the mend, WCCO reports, recovering from her third surgery since the accident and taking speech therapy.

“It’s a sea full of unknowns,” her mother Susan told WCCO. “So yes, we celebrate the little achievements here and there, but we’re still hoping for the really big one.”


Bekka and Bergeland were both out of the hospital in February, TommieMedia reported. On Feb. 26, an update was posted to the Bekka's Bright Night Facebook page.

"BREAKING NEWS: Bekka update...She has improved by leaps & bounds since the hit & run in Nov. Your continued prayers are much appreciated as she has a long road ahead of her with multiple surgeries and physical therapy in her future but we're confident she'll beat the odds!"

Bekka's most recent surgery happened on March 7, KSTP reported. Doctors had to replace a section of her skull that had been removed following the hit-and-run. She tells WCCO friends stop by all the time.

"It's great," she told the station.

There are still months of rehab and physical therapy ahead, and a benefit to help raise money is planned. Bekka's Bright Night Medical Fund Benefit is scheduled for March 22 at Carbone's in Farmington. It'll feature a spaghetti dinner for $10, a silent auction, and music. T-shirts that say "Be Bekka Strong" are also being sold, and donations can be made directly to the family.

You can also track updates on a CaringBridge page.

Bergeland, from Wayzata, is working on his strength, his mother Denine told TommieMedia last month.

“We are so encouraged with what we’re hearing and what we’re seeing. We believed that Nick has truly been blessed,” Denine told the publication. "I personally want to thank everybody who has prayed for us because I really believe that was the difference."

A St. Paul woman was arrested in the days following the hit-and-run. The 40-year-old had been cited five times for failing to carry proof of insurance, and once for not stopping at a stop sign. At the time, investigators were trying to determine whether the collision was intentional or an accident. She was never charged.

St. Paul police told TommieMedia the case is still being investigated.

“By no means is this a stale investigation," Public Information Officer Sgt. Paul Paulos told the site, "and hopefully something will come up here in the near future.”

Both Bekka and Nicholas, seniors at the time of the incident, hope to return to school.

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