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Neon Tommy - Annenberg digital news

Cristian Torres Rodriguez: A Loyal Fan

John Guenther, Amanda Tran |
November 3, 2009 | 8:24 p.m. PST

Staff Reporters

Drag the slider to watch interview excerpts with Cristian's mother and uncle.

More than 100 members of the Rodriguez family packed the stands of Dodger stadium on July 18. They gathered not only to cheer their favorite team to victory but also to celebrate the life of a lost loved one. The Rodriguezes proudly displayed the shirts they made to commemorate 12-year-old Cristian Torres Rodriguez among the sea of blue-and-white fans.


Cristian enjoyed life like any other sixth grader. He enjoyed playing on the computer, Playstation and reading. Although he suffered from chronic asthma, he loved watching baseball. He was a die-hard fan of the Los Angeles Dodgers.


His parents, Martin and Susan, wanted to celebrate their son's loyalty toward his favorite team. At the wake and funeral, instead of a grim procession clad in black, family members from all over (even as far as Mexico) came dressed in Dodgers gear. His parents also bought a Dodger-themed casket and urn to place his ashes in after the cremation.


Despite his asthma, Cristian lived a healthy life up until he became sick several weeks before his death.


Beginning on May 3, his parents brought Cristian to Kaiser Baldwin Park Medical Center emergency room for evaluation three times before he was admitted to the hospital. On the first visit, the staff asked his parents if Cristian had been to Mexico and diagnosed him with tonsillitis. The doctors said that he had bronchitis on the third visit, prescribed antibiotics and sent him home.


When Cristian did not recover, he was admitted to the hospital on May 8. The pediatrician told his parents that Cristian might have swine flu and ordered the test.


On Mother's Day, he was placed on life support and the doctors told his parents that he was not likely to live another 24 hours. Cristian would go on living for 29 more days.


His parents were not told about the swine flu test results until two weeks after it was administered, when a nurse inadvertently told them that the test came back positive. Martin and Susan then asked the doctor if it was true. The doctor confirmed the results but said that they were no longer dealing with the swine flu diagnosis. Cristian was battling pneumonia at that point.


After Cristian died on June 8, his doctor began crying, according to Cristian's mother.


"The nurses were hurt because he was getting better," said Susan. "The doctor was upset because it never should have happened."


Cristian's uncle Rick believes doctors should have admitted Cristian the first time he showed up in the emergency room.


"The hospital didn't do their job," said Rick. "They just gave him these pills even though he had all the symptoms [of swine flu]."


The Rodriguez family remains so unsatisfied with the handling of the situation that they plan to consult a lawyer. Kaiser officials did not respond to numerous attempts over two days to get their side of the story.


In his short life, Cristian had a profound influence on others around him. His elementary school dedicated its graduation to him, and last week placed a plaque commemorating him under a tree near the school.


His uncle Rick lived behind the school, and said he'll miss hearing Cristian's footsteps enter through the front door every day after he got home from school.


"I can't believe he's gone," Rick said. "He touched everybody's hearts."

More than 50 people have died of swine flu in Los Angeles County. We feature some of them here. Click below to read their stories.

Plus Daniel Hernandez and Olivia Cater

Visit the summary page for a complete collection of our swine flu stories.

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