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Astoria coma girl wakes up after hit-and-run crash

"I feel perfect," the girl said from a wheelchair while her tearful parents beamed. "I want to go back to school. Go back and play with my friends ... I want to thank them for sending me cards."The fourth-grader's hospital room in Glen Oaks was flooded with get-well wishes from classmates at PS 290 in Manhattan after an allegedly drunk driver slammed into the Ujkajs' car April 11.Little Ilda and her cousin, Selma Purovic, 18, were riding in the back seat, which took the brunt of the damage."When Ilda got here, she was deeply in a coma," said Dr. Mark Mittler, co-chief of pediatric neurology at the North Shore Long Island Jewish Health System. Her brain was badly bruised and doctors told the girl's parents there was a 50 percent chance she would suffer long-term damage. But after days of intensive surgery and other treatments, Ilda stirred from her coma Sunday."The sun and the moon were in the right alignment here," Mittler said. "For this family it is absolutely a miracle.""She's been walking and talking and would appear to be making a recovery," added Dr. Peter Silver, critical care physician at Schneider, who cared for Ilda.Fatbardha Ujkaj, Ilda's mother, wiped away tears as she described how her daughter asked for her father, Ymer Ujkaj, when she woke up."I think it's amazing what they did for her," Fatbardha Ujkaj said.Now that their daughter is on the road to recovery, the family is turning its sights on accused drunk driver Gerard Gormley, 37, of 25-10 Crescent St. in Astoria, who was charged hours after the crash with driving under the influence and leaving an accident scene. Prosecutors said Gormley admitted drinking four beers that night and was cruising with a blood alcohol level twice the legal limit when he blew a red light and pummeled into the Ujkajs' car just after midnight at the intersection of 31st Street and 35th Avenue.The family filed a lawsuit against Gormley Tuesday in State Supreme Court in Manhattan seeking $50 million in punitive damages and the recovery of medical costs, said Steven G. Schiesel, the family's attorney with the Manhattan law firm of Pecoraro & Schiesel.Gormley faces up to four years in prison if convicted. He is out on $25,000 bail and is scheduled to return to court on April 26, according to Queens district attorney's office. The Ujkajs said they want their lawsuit to be a warning to potential drunk drivers. "This happened to us. If they don't do anything, it will happen to someone else," Fatbardha Ujkaj said. "Please, if they see themselves that they are drunk, don't drive."Reach reporter Matthew Monks by e-mail at or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 156.

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