Making strides: Teen injured in St. Francis crash to return home from hospital

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Moving through hospital hallways 72 days after she was struck by a vehicle, Kaia Bollmann is rightfully proud of the strides she has made.

The next step she’s looking forward to? Returning home to continue her recovery. 

“I just want to go back to school,” she said.

On November 20, when responders rushed Kaia and her best friend Annie LaMotte to Hennepin County Medical Center, no one knew if Kaia would live. A car hit the 15-year-olds while they were in a crosswalk with lights flashing on Highway 47 at Pederson Drive.

Suffering a traumatic brain injury and broken pelvis, Kaia remained in a medically-induced coma for weeks. Her grandmother stayed by her side nearly every day.

“One Thursday I came in and she opened her eyes and looked at me, and it was the first time she opened her eyes and looked at me and I could actually see Kaia in there,” said Barb Kelley, Kaia's grandmother.

By mid-December, Kaia moved to Gillette Children's Specialty Healthcare where she's since learned to walk and talk all over again. 

“We expect she’ll keep getting better, one year, two years after this injury, but certainly the recovery she’s made so far is remarkable,” said Dr. Nanette Aldahondo.

While Kaia’s days are busy going from therapy session to therapy session, work is being done to make changes to the intersection where the crash happened. 

Wednesday, dozens of representatives ranging from lawmakers to MnDOT officials met for the first time as part of the Toward Zero Deaths initiative to accelerate potential safety improvements for the dangerous intersection. There have already been some sign changes and a temporary traffic light is scheduled to go up in April with the goal of construction on something permanent in 2021.

“It’s definitely going to need community involvement because we don’t know everything,” said Melissa Barnes, a MnDOT engineer. “The community will have to tell us what some of the problems are so we can come up with a solution that will fit St. Francis.”

Until then, Kaia looks forward to continuing her recovery from home, starting a week from Friday. She now wears a pin on her chest, bearing her new, self-described title “Trauma Queen.” 

“I gave Annie one also,” said Kaia. “What me and her have been through it’s kinda hard, but it just helps me smile.”