Friends and family of University of Iowa senior Nicole Ruffolo have rushed to Indiana to join her after an early morning accident on the Purdue University campus left her in a comatose state.
Ruffolo was visiting a friend at Purdue over the weekend.
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UI senior Bridget Quinn -- a friend of Ruffolo since freshman year -- said Ruffolo was leaving a local bar on April 20 when she was offered a ride but declined because she "did not want to go home with anyone who had been drinking."
Ruffolo, 22, walked across Grant Street; a vehicle traveling northbound struck her at 3:08 a.m., according to a press release. She sustained serious head injuries and is comatose and in critical condition in a local hospital.
The driver -- Courtney Nichols, 25, of West Lafayette, Ind. -- reportedly did not stop after striking Ruffolo and continued northbound until police detained her a few minutes later.
A family member said there have been some signs that "keep [them] optimistic," including nurses who are hopeful about inner brain pressures decreasing.
"[We are] somber and cautiously optimistic for a complete recovery, and we have been praying for a full recovery," said Andy Housely, Ruffolo's uncle.
He said Ruffolo, a native of Bloomingdale, Ill., was put into a medically induced coma for her own safety after the accident because of bleeding and pressures in her brain.
Housely, who is a Purdue graduate, said he was impressed with how close Purdue and the UI have been throughout the process.
Quinn said Ruffolo's mother contacted her at 5:30 a.m., and shortly thereafter, a group of friends made the trip to the hospital. Quinn said overall, Ruffolo is someone who can always manage to make anyone laugh -- including her core group of friends, which met each other during freshman year in the Quadrangle.
Lexi Ruffolo, Nicole Ruffolo's sister, said having the group of nine friends has not only helped the family but has made it easier for her as well.
"It means a lot to have all of her friends here, and it's comforting to me as well since none of my friends are here," said the 16-year-old high school sophomore. "They are like my family."
Housely said Nicole Ruffolo has amazing friends who are making him rethink his typical allegiances to the Boilermakers.
Lexi Ruffolo said one of the projects the group is working on is a big gift basket for Nicole Ruffolo when she wakes up filled with unique gifts from each friend that means something special to them.
"I got her bracelets and earrings, because I know she loves them, and the police and [paramedics] had to cut them off of her. Now, she will have plenty of jewelry."
Lexi Ruffolo also said the group bought Nicole some headscarves to help cover up spots where her head had to be shaved by paramedics.
Quinn has made a website to help cover Ruffolo's medical expenses.
As of press time, the site has raised nearly $4,000 with 91 donations toward a goal of raising a total of $10,000. The donation page is set up through fundly.com.
UI Dean of Students David Grady said his thoughts and prayers are with Nicole and her family and friends during her recovery. He noted that the university generally has a protocol when students are out for a period of time, though the university handles everything on a case-by-case basis.
"Our first thought is with her recovery, but in situations with this … normally the process is once we get the notification, we will notify instructors," he said.
Quinn, who lives with Ruffolo, said she doesn't doubt her prospects of recovery.
"We are already seeing her try to move and wake up," she said. "She wants to be her best and is so loving, and so caring and so strong, she is very determined."
Fundraiser link: http://fundly.com/help-support-nicole-ruffolo?ft_pid=n2u8mreo