MANHATTAN — Donors have raised more than $144,000 to cover hospital bills for a straight-A Columbia medical student who's been in a coma since he was critically injured in a hit-and-run by an unlicensed driver, friends said.
Shariq Jumani, 19, was crossing the street against the light at Riverside Drive and West 115th Street about 12:25 a.m. when Brayard Arno, 28, hit him and kept driving, police and prosecutors said.
Arno told investigators that he fled because he panicked, prosecutors said.
Jumani, who's from Pakistan and entering his second year at Columbia, suffered a skull fracture, internal bleeding, fractures to his lower legs and has been in a coma since he was hit, according to a GoFundMe page friends and family set up for him.
Medical staff at Mount Sinai St. Luke's initially told investigators that Jumani wasn't expected to survive, according to prosecutors.
Jumani's medical bills have ballooned to about $200,000, so loved ones established the online fundraiser, which had garnered $144,298 from 1,481 donors as of Monday morning.
"Since then, he underwent open-brain surgery, abdominal surgery, orthopedic surgery for his legs, and still has a number of surgeries to go," organizers wrote.
Doctors, who are now hopeful about Jumani's recovery, plan on taking him off his ventilator in a bid to help him wake up, the fund's organizers wrote Sunday.
Arno, who's had his license suspended three times in New York, turned himself in to police a day after hitting Jumani and was charged with leaving the scene and driving without a license, prosecutors said.
The New Jersey man has been held on $100,000 bail and is due back in court on Wednesday, records show.
His New Jersey driving record is clean, but that's not the case for his New York record, officials said.
In 2009, he was arrested and later convicted for driving with his ability impaired in New Paltz, according to officials with the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles.
His license was suspended in 2013 for failing to pay for a driver-responsibility assessment, officials said.
In July 2016, he was caught and later convicted for driving without a license and disobeying a traffic device, officials said. He was fined $225, officials said.
He failed to answer a summons in November 2016 or pay a fine in January 2017, leading his license to be suspended, officials said. It was still suspended when he hit Jumani.
Friends and family are clinging to hope for the student, whom they described as "hilariously sarcastic" and "uniquely ambitious."
"It is hard to adequately put into words the kind of amazing individual he is. His friends describe him as acutely concerned about those around him, incredibly caring, and always wanting to lend a hand to everyone who is lucky enough to know him. He’s joyful and lively and hilariously sarcastic. Talking to Shariq just makes people smile," organizers wrote on the GoFundMe page.
"One of his most endearing qualities is his almost obsessive love of cats, and he had many an argument with his family growing up because he wanted to adopt all of the street cats that would roam outside his childhood home," they added.
Jumani, who studies neurodegenerative diseases and how we form memories, holds a 4.0 GPA and is a research assistant at Columbia's Herbert Irving Comprehensive Care Center, organizers wrote.
"In short, Shariq is a gem. And his family, friends, and all who know him are just praying he be granted a second chance at being the blessing to this world that he naturally is," they said.
Organizers didn't immediately return a request for comment.