At 5:18 p.m. Monday, 13-year-old Brandon Smith called his mom to say he was walking home from a neighborhood recreation center.

By 5:36 p.m., St. Paul police were standing at the family's door on W. Minnehaha Avenue near Dale Street with terrible news: Brandon had been found unconscious in the street, hit by a vehicle near W. University Avenue and Grotto Street, about eight blocks from home.

The driver left the scene and was still sought Tuesday.

Brandon was listed overnight in critical condition at Gillette Children's Hospital in St. Paul, but by midafternoon Tuesday, he was surprisingly better, stable and able to talk, his mother said.

"God had his hands on my baby," Charlotte Igwe said Tuesday afternoon, as she prepared to return to the hospital from the family's home in the 700 block of W. Minnehaha.

"It's almost a miracle -- he's up, he's walking. His face is pretty swollen. His mouth is busted up. Remarkably, no broken bones. He had a little blood hemorrhaging in his brain, but he's been talking."

Brandon suffered serious head injuries, said Sgt. Paul Paulos, a spokesman for St. Paul police.

Officers found the boy in the street but have yet to determine where he was standing when struck, Paulos said.

"He said all he remembers was coming down Grotto," Igwe said.

Tuesday afternoon, she expressed anger that someone would leave her son in the street, without stopping to help him or call anyone to help him.

Police have yet to put together any type of vehicle description, but a car mirror and plastic parts were found at the scene, the sergeant said.

Just before he was hit, Brandon had been at a recreation center playing basketball with a friend, and had walked him home before setting out on his own.

His family is asking for the driver who left the scene, or anyone with any information on a possible suspect, to call police.

"It was very cowardly that they left him there,'' Igwe said.

She added that she wants the driver stopped, and off the streets, "before he hurts someone else's child."

Police estimated that her son lay unconscious, in dangerously low temperatures, for 5 to 10 minutes, Igwe said.

Brandon is a seventh-grader at Murray Junior High School, and he likes to play basketball at the Jimmy Lee Recreation Center on N. Lexington Parkway. He also plays football with the Lower East Side, she said.

Police said there were no cameras at the intersection where Brandon was hit, but they were checking those nearby to see if they could spot the suspect's vehicle, the mother said.

Though police have the vehicle mirror, they weren't sure which side of the vehicle it came from, she said.

Anyone with information that might lead police to the vehicle or driver is urged to call accident investigators at 651-266-5729.

Joy Powell • 651-925-5038