'Wonder' child makes progress
The Denver Post | March
WONDER...I believe fate smiled and destiny laughed as she came to my cradle "know this child will be able" laughed as my body she lifted "know this child will be gifted" with love, with patience and with faith she'll make her way...Natalie Merchant
AURORA - As Hunter Rodriguez lay in a hospital las autumn with a swollen brain, fighting for his life, his parents Greg and Jacqueline, played the song "Wonder," in hopes of a miracle.
Hunter was the victim of shaken-baby syndrome, allegedlly at the hands of his licensed day-care provider. He was hospitalized for more than a month.
The toddler, who was 15-months old at the time, looked fine. But mentally and physically, it was as though he was a newborn again. His head bobbled. His eyes couldn't focus and he lay limp in his bed at Children's Hospital.
But nearly four months after his homecoming, Hunter is showing he's a fighter.
"He's just seems to be conquering everything," his mother said this week.
I believe fate smiled and destiny laughed as she came to my cradle....
When Hunter was in a coma last October, Greg and Jacqueline feared the worst and nearly gave up hope. But he rallied and began the long process of recovery.
Hunter underwent hours of occupational, physical and speech therapy. Therapists at Children's said their star patient was progessing well. When he was released to go home, the Rodriguezes needed special equipment for his car seat and high chair. He couldn't sit without support and the right side of his body drooped. The shaking was so violent that is detached his retinas, and his parents were told that their son may never see again.
But the Rodriguezes held on to their miracles, their "Angel Bear," and hoped his progress would continue.
Three days after going home, Hunter seemed to be doing well. But would sometimes became difficult. He would sometimes cry up to five hours at a time, and it was taking a toll on Greg and Jacqueline.
"He was just really irritable," Greg said. "And there was nobody to help."
"It was like, "Who is this kid?'" Jacqueline said. "It didn't seem like Hunter."
They were becoming frustrated and doubted that they alone could care for their son.
But by the time Christmas rolled around, Hunter gave his parents a precious gift. He sat unassisted. He also began tracking objects with his eyes.
And then he began hitting important milestones - milestones he's once reached but had to struggle to relearn.
On Jacqueline's birthday, he took his first steps - again. It's like watching an infant all over again," Jacqueline said. "He's almost to where he was."
Know this child will be able...
Greg, 32, and Jacqueline, 29, said they don't know the long-term effects of the shaking. It's too soon t tell, doctors say.
Hunter goes to 12 therapy sessions a week - two days of physical and occupational therapy and two days at a center that works on his vision.
Yet he runs about the house playing with balloons and balls.
"Hi," Hunter says as he stares up with big brown eyes and flashes perfectly spaced baby teeth.
Jacqueline, who is nearly 7 months pregnant, can't be very active with Hunter, but greg tosses his son up in the air and Hunter slides, headfirst, down the couch into his father's arms.
But while he may appear fine, "to the trained eye, (therapists) can tell his problems," Jacqueline said.
The Rodriguezes know their has problems with his motor skills. The right side of Hunter's body is still weak. When he claps, he brings his left hand all the way over to the right.
Hunter has blind spots and problems with depth perception. He has a hard time moving his body and can't gauge the size of the stairs leading to his bedroom or play-room. Sometimes he'll bump his head on the sofa of the wall. Furniture in the Rodriguezes' house has been rearranged to prevent accidents.
Doctors also warn that as Hunter grows older, he may have learning disabilities. Until Hunter starts school, his parents won't know what kind of effects the shaking had on their son's fragile brain.
"If a learning disability is all he has, he's lucky," Greg said.
Know this child will be gifted with love, with patience and with faith she'll make her way...
Hunter was hurt in a licensed day-care facility. The woman who allegedly hurt him, Shawna Pint, will be arraigned March 29. She has been charged with felony child abuse.
The incident made the Rodriguezes determined to keep their child out of day care.
Greg works during the day while Jacqueline and Hunter are in therapy. In the afternoon, the two trade, and Jacqueline heads to work while Greg takes care of Hunter.
"We're both with him and we don't have to worry about child care," Jacqueline said.
And Hunter's fans aren't just in the form of his parents and family. At Ebert Elementary School, children have taken up collections and have given him toys.
Hunter's playroom is full of donated stuffed animals and toys from well-wishers.
And a local Brownie troop is donating proceeds from their cookie sales to Hunter's medical fund.
This same Brownie troop has taken on the curly, brown haired toddler as one of their service projects. They sang Christmas carols to him over the holidays, made him Valentine's cards and are recording songs and books for him to listen to.
"They've just really done a lot of different things in terms of taking him under their wing." said Lynne Walters, troop leader.
The Rodriguezes know they still have a long road ahead of them but they count their blessings each day. They know the prognosis for Hunter could have been a lot worse.
The same day Hunter was admitted to Children's, a baby in Greeley was admitted after allegedly being shaken at the hands of a licensed day-care provider. The baby from Greeley died.
They keep a careful eye on their Angel Bear. Every fall, every fever, and every cry alarms them. Because Hunter is so young, they aren't sure what is normal and what may have been caused by his injuries.
"We're so paranoid about every little thing," Greg said. "You just learn to appreciate every second with your family."
"I'm always thanking God every day for his recovery," Jacqueline says. "For everything.
"Even the little things, for his smile...Even when he cries.."
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