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Family shares baby's 'miracle'
The Denver Post | November 7, 1998

The bleeding in Hunter Rodriguez's brain has stopped and the swelling is going down. But he can't see, and his motor skills are impaired.

Still Hunter's parents are just glad their "Angel Bear" is alive, Jacqueline and Greg Rodriguez said at a news conference at Children's Hospital on Friday. "We just think it's a miracle," Jacqueline said.

Hunter, who turned 15 months old Friday, was rushed to Children's almost three weeks ago with shaken baby syndrome injuries allegedly inflicted by his licensed day-care provider.

Hunter is in fair condition, and his doctors says he is improving every day. But for a week, he was intensive car and on a respirator.

"When we had given up hope," a crying Jacqueline Rodriguez said, "I went in late one night...and he actually smiled at me, and it was the best thing."

Dr. Andrew Sirotnak, director of the Child Protection Team at Children's, said it's too early to tell if Hunter will make a full recovery, though his loss of vision is considered temporary.

The Rodriguezes are taking Hunter's recovery one step at a time, but his loss of eyesight worries them.

"I hope that he remembers what we look like...if he can't see us again," Jacqueline said.

Sirotnak said he hopes to let Hunter go home to Aurora with his parents in two to three weeks. He has cautioned the couple that Hunter's recovery will take months. The toddler will need outpatient treatment and physical and occupational therapy.

Wearing thin red and white ribbons tied with an angel safety pin - a reminder of all victims of shaken baby syndrome - the Rodriguezes have essentially been living at the hospital. They have taken time off from their jobs and take turns staying at Hunter's side.

Jacqueline Rodriguez, 4 1/2 months pregnant with the couple's second child, had just returned to work at Oppenheimer Funds about two months ago.

The couple, married for three years, said they wanted Hunter to start making friends, so they placed him in child care three days a week. Jacqueline Rodriguez jokes that Hunter found little "girlfriends" and looked up to a few of the other boys. His day-care provider, 29-year-old Shawna Pint, Faces charges of felony child abuse.

The couple said they had heard of shaken-baby syndrome before but never imagined their son would be a victim.

"You just can't believe that it happens," Jacqueline Rodriguez said.

The same day Hunter was brought to Children's, and 8 week old baby from Greeley was also being treated for shaken baby syndrome. The baby, Jonah Ruiz, was also under the care of a licensed babysitter. Jonah still is critical condition and has been transferred to North Colorado Medical Center so he can be closer to his family. His babysitter, Renee Gallegos, has been charged with child abuse and inflicting severe bodily injury.

The Rodriguezes said they've talked to the Ruizes for support.

As Hunter makes slow progress, Jacqueline Rodriguez is trying to keep a close watch on her pregnancy. She was admitted t the emergency room once after Hunter was hurt. Taking good care of yourself is hard to do when you baby boy remains in the hospital, she said.

The Rodriguezes hope to take their son back to his own bedroom soon and hear his chatter of "mama" and "dada" back in their house.

"We just want to get our son back the way he was," Greg Rodriguez said.

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