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THE MIAMI HERALD
Caring Mom Needs Comfort
Francisco Rodriguez, who was in a coma for eight months after he was hit by a car, needs a bed and other furnishings to help his mother get through his lengthy rehabilitation.
BY ELIZABETH BAIER
January 6, 2004
9 p.m., March 3, 2002.
It was the moment Francisco Rodriguez' world was turned upside down.
He had just gotten off work at the Rios Flower Shop, where he made arrangements and deliveries. He was headed home to his Aunt Francis' house. Sometimes he took flowers to her, but that night he just wanted to get home and watch some television.
It would be a year before Rodriguez ever made it home.
While he waited at Northwest Seventh Avenue and 14th Street for his bus, a car came over the curb, wiping out the bus stop.
Rodriguez spent most of the following year in a coma.
''Being in a coma is like being dead,'' said Ramona Rubet, Rodriguez' mother. ``He started waking up slowly. It was so hard for me.''
Rubet had left her two adult daughters behind in Ponce, Puerto Rico, to care for her son. She spent two months with him at Jackson Memorial Hospital's intensive care unit and another eight months at the Human Resources Health Center nursing home. These days, Rubet rolls out a thin mattress kept under her son's bed at the Spinal Cord Living Assistance Development apartment complex in Hialeah.
The first thing Rodriguez remembers thinking after he came out of his coma was that he was in jail.
''When I woke up, the doctors didn't let me move,'' Rodriguez said. ``I didn't know where I was or what [had] happened.''
He had suffered damage to his pelvic bone and brain but not his spine.
He has regained much of his brain functions, except for memories of the accident.
''He doesn't remember any of the pain,'' his mother said. ``I guess that's the only good part of it.''
Twice a week, Rodriguez goes to Jackson for neurological, physical and occupational therapy for his arms and left leg, which he cannot bend. He must use a wheelchair, but doctors believe therapy might help him walk again.
At his most vulnerable, Rodriguez -- 5 feet 10 inches tall -- weighed 95 pounds. Now, at 160 pounds, the doctors are constantly asking Rubet what she's doing to ``get him in shape again.''
''I wouldn't do anything without my mom,'' Rodriguez said. ``She has to be with me all the time.''
The one-bedroom apartment at the assisted-living facility is barren except for an orthopedic bed, a television and a handful of basic kitchen utensils donated by family.
Rubet can't leave her son's side for more than 20 minutes before he needs some help.
She hasn't worked since the accident, and the $800 disability check is just enough to pay rent and utility, food, and transportation expenses.
Among the duo's wishes are a bed for Rubet to make her nights a little more comfortable, furniture and a computer to keep Rodriguez entertained during the day.
''The doctors tell me that as long as his mind is working, they want to get him back to school and reintegrate him into society,'' Rubet said. ``He's coordinating well and could really use a computer.''
There's one more thing Rodriguez, who smiled when he remembered it, would like to have: a blender.
''I love mamey and papaya milkshakes,'' Rodriguez said. ``My mom could make them for me.''