Reina Stone was sassy as far as two years olds go. She would tell you how it was, even if you didn't understand her, and then flash a smile that took the air out of a room.
"She spoke her own language," mother Adrienne Hosiner said Saturday, "that I called 'Reinese.' I didn't always understand it, but she ... let you know what she was thinking."
That all changed May 13 at 5:45 p.m. when the little girl stopped talking, and then stopped breathing.
Hosiner, a resident advisor at Gastineau Human Services, was transporting a client when she received a call from her boyfriend, Nicholas Kokotovich III, saying Reina had hit her head falling off the bed and she wasn't breathing correctly.
Kokotovich picked Hosiner up from work and they took Reina to the emergency room together.
"She hardly had any color," Hosiner said. "I kept telling (Kokotovich) to hold her head up straight because she wasn't breathing right."
For four hours doctors and nurses at Bartlett Regional Hospital fought to keep Reina alive until eventually she was medevaced to Seattle. Equally harrowing was when Hosiner was told what caused the injuries.
Hospital staff told Hosiner her daughter showed signs of sever abuse that resulting in brain damage. Her face badly swollen, Reina could no longer breathe on her own. Hosiner's boyfriend, Kokotovich, was suspected of causing it. He was arrested June 10 and charged with first degree assault. Kokotovich, 23, is being held in Lemon Creek Correctional Center on $100,000 bail.
Hosiner and grandmother Debbie Spiech flew with their "little angel" on the medevac flight, fearing Reina wouldn't survive the trip. When they arrived at Seattle's Harborview Medical Center, Hosiner was met by more doctors and more nurses, and also more police officers with more questions.
All she could think about was Reina, though.
"I wondered what Reina had thought," she said. "What went through her mind? I don't know what happened, I just know Nick was responsible for doing this."
Hosiner, 25, had known Kokotovich since high school. They lost touch over the years but were reintroduced through friends on Valentines Day. She was a divorced mother and had just broken up with a violent boyfriend in July after police intervened on a domestic violence charge. Kokotovich seemed to be different, however, and eventually the two moved in together.
"I never saw a bad side," Hosiner said. "If we had an argument, he would go for a walk. He never showed signs of being violent to Reina or myself."
At first in denial, Hosiner said she began piecing together the day's events leading up to Reina's injuries. After talking with Kokotovich, she learned he had left Reina alone for a couple hours to get high on OxyContin, a highly addictive pain killer.
Kokotovich eventually told Hosiner what happened and turned himself in, she said.
Hosiner said Kokotovich returned to the apartment and Reina's favorite word, "No," began to irritate him. She said Kokotovich told her he grew irritated and struck Reina, and then hit her again when she cried as a result. Eventually Reina quit making sounds.
"He didn't use anything but his hands," Hosiner said, crying. "She looked like she had been in a fight... with an adult."
Kokotovich used to have an OxyContin addition, Hosiner said, but he told her that was in his past. She knew he smoked marijuana but didn't think he used any other drugs. Hosiner said she doesn't use drugs and is required to take drug screens through her work, similar to when she worked for the Juneau Youth Center and Goldbelt Security.
After nearly three weeks, Reina was transferred to Children's Hospital in Seattle, where pediatric specialists are working to mend her wounds. Fixing the emotional damage will be equally difficult.
"I don't know what her prognosis is yet, they haven't really determined that," Hosiner said. "All they are saying is that she is going to recover."
Part of Reina's brain suffered serious damage and her vision may never be the same, but doctors say she is showing signs of improvement. Her family is hopeful Reina will return to being a normal little girl who watches Wonder Pets, Yo Gabba Gabba and Wow! Wow! Wubbzy! with grandma.
"She was all bubbles and sparkles," grandmother Debbie Spiech said. "She lit up the room when she walked in. She would sing with the TV and could say hello in Spanish and Chinese..."
A website was started in Reina's name to bring awareness about her condition and for well-wishers to pass on their sentiments. Some of the comments haven't been so nice: vigilante-type threats and diatribes about bad parenting.
"There was a posting passing judgment on me," Hosiner said. "That does nothing positive for Reina. It's not about me, its about Reina. Nick knows what he did and knows he has to have the proper justice done to him."
Reina's daily routine consists of waking up to doctors prodding her and eating a small bit of yogurt. She then goes to pediatric occupational, physical and speech therapy for a few hours. She'll then sleep until her afternoon sessions. The days move slowly for family as Reina learns to be a little girl again.
On good days she recognizes family and hospital staff, flashing a partial smile hindered by paralysis. Her sassy "Reinese" words are just whispers now, but even a half-smile from the resilient tike can still take the air out of a room.
Contact Klas Stolpe at email@example.com.
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