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Toddler recovers from injury after being shaken
The Children's Hospital News | December 1, 1998

Two months ago, Hunter Rodriguez could walk. He could say a dozen words. He could see the bright world. But after suffering a brain injury consistent with shaken-baby syndrome, Hunter is starting from scratch.

Through therapy and his family's love, this 15-month-old boy is trying to relearn to walk, to talk and to see.

His parents Greg, 32, and Jacqueline, 28, are simply grateful their "Angel Bear" is alive. "We just think it's a miracle." Jacqueline said at a November news conference.

Hunter arrived in Children's emergency department on Oct 19 with injuries consistent with shaken-baby syndrome - injuries allegedly inflicted by his day-care provider, Shawna Pint, 29. Pint was charged with felony child abuse and will appear in court on Jan. 5.

"This type of injury doesn't happen from bouncing your baby on your knee, or any kind of play," said Dr. Andrew Sirotnak, director of the Kempe Child Protection Team of The Children's Hospital and assistant professor of Pediatrics at UCHSC. "It is caused by a blatanly violent act of shaking or throwing the baby down.

Child abuse seems to be seasonal, peaking during the stressful holiday months, said Suzanne Glaser, RN, Children's trauma nurse registrar. This year, about 6 percent of children admitted for trauma suffered from injuries possibly inflicted by others. About a third of the cases the Child Protection Team investigates at Children's are substantiated.

Sirotnak said shaken-baby syndrome is often difficult to diagnose because its outward symptoms - vomiting, crankiness, poor feeding or sleepiness - may mimic a virus. "The doctors at Children's understand that these may be symptoms that indicate a head trauma, especially if the story and the symptoms don't click," he said.

Violently shaking a baby tears the small blool vessels in the brain and behind the eyes, causing brain damage, blindness or even death, Sirotnak said. Children under age 1 are more often victims of shaking. However, it is not unusual for toddlers like Hunter to be shaken or thrown down. And, it is most likely that the person doing the shaking is an unrelated caregiver, such as a boyfriend or babysitter, he said.

Before putting Hunter into Pint's care, his parents checked references and resource agencies. But last month, a state audit revealed such agencies were lax in completing criminal background checks and inspections of day care centers.

"There is no excuse for the state to have such a report," Sirotnak said.

Hunter's provocative story put him and his family in the local media spotlight. Greg and Jacqueline generously participated in a press conference to help increase awareness and possibly prevent other babies from enduring what Hunter did.

"Although they were experiencing something that none of us could imagine, it helps the community to hear that shaken-baby syndrome can happen to even the most protected children." said Jackie Brown-Griggs, Public Relations director. She said that Public Relations helps families who wish to pursue such media opportunities whilde shielding those who do not.

Hunter spent a week in ICU, where the Rodriguezes say his primary nurse, Regina Notz, BSN, RN, helped ease their terror and worry. Soon, he came off the respirator, and moved to 5 North, where he began a regimen of physical, occupational and speech therapy. On Nov. 20, after nearly two months at Children's, Huinter went home to Aurora.

Greg and Jacqueline - who is 5 months pregnant - will not put Hunter or their new baby into day-care. "No matter what we have to do, we'll never let him go again," Greg said. "We never thought this would happen....there were no signs. Hunter loved his sitter. You just never know, no matter how careful you are."

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