Nikki Dahl

Nikki Dahl holds up a sign against child abuse before starting at the Peak Fitness fundraiser held last Sunday afternoon. Members of the community came together to either walk or ride a stationary bike to raise funds for Averie and raise awareness about child abuse.

It’s a phone call that no parent or grandparent ever wants to get.

When Douglas resident Brandy Douglass was called about Averie, her bright little 2-year-old granddaughter, her heart sunk deep into her stomach.

She had just one thought that went through her head: “I don’t understand how anyone can do this to a child.”

Douglass’ granddaughter, who was living with her mother in Colorado, was severely beaten. Police allege it was by her mother’s boyfriend.

Douglass’ son, Andre Amack, who lives in Greeley, has been by Averie’s side since he first heard that his daughter was injured.

“She has swelling of the brain, a skull and spine fracture, a fractured rib and bruises and marks,” Douglass said from Children’s Hospital, where she has been since Sept. 4.

The mother’s boyfriend, Christian Hernandez, 22, was accused of abusing the toddler and also assaulting the mother, according to court documents. He is now facing 17 charges, including attempted murder and first degree assault, according to the Longmont Times-Call. Other charges include first degree attempted murder of a person under 12 by someone of trust, first degree assault with a deadly weapon, second degree assault, strangulation, child abuse resulting in serious bodily injury and third degree assault on a pregnant victim.

According to a police report, Longmont officers were called to the Lamplighter Motel on Main Street when a housekeeper allegedly saw Hernandez run out of the room with the child who had bruises on her face and had difficulty breathing.

The child was initially taken to Longmont United Hospital but was airlifted to Children’s Hospital in Denver with a “significant brain injury” and fractured ribs.

The toddler’s mother told police she had been dating Hernandez for about four months and was pregnant with his child. She also stated that Hernandez had recently become physically abusive toward her and her daughter and that he had been spanking Averie with a leather belt and his hand for the last half of August.

Hernandez allegedly told the mother that the girl had been injured by a friend’s dog but when confronted by police he then said the injuries were the result of Averie falling off the bed.

When doctors examined Averie and found severe bruising on her face, legs, torso, back and buttocks, they determined that the injuries were not because of an accident but, instead, were deliberately caused.

Douglass has many questions that are running through her head.

“What I keep asking myself is ‘why would she (the mother) leave Averie with him,’” Douglass said. “As a mother, if I knew that my child was being hit or spanked, I wouldn’t leave them in the care of that person.”

While the injuries were significant, the doctors are encouraged by Averie’s progress over the past two weeks.

“The doctors are playing it by ear,” Douglass said. “They say there should not be any long lasting brain damage and that she should recover fully.”

Averie has been moved from the intensive care unit and is now going to physical, occupational and speech therapy to regain strength on her right side.

“She needs assistance when she walks and she’s weak on the right side since the injury is on the left side of her brain,” Douglass explained.

While Douglass has been at Averie’s bedside for the past two weeks, her support group of friends from the Plains and Peak Fitness has been phenomenal.

Peak Fitness held a fundraiser last Sunday to raise money for Averie and to bring awareness to child abuse and its victims.

“I’ve always felt bad for abuse victims in the past,” Douglass said. “I never thought it would happen to my family.”

Family friend Tiffany Hegglund had T-shirts made for the fundraiser at Peak and also made signs that participants carried during their walk.

“I want this to go viral,” Hegglund said. “Child abuse needs to end and we need to bring awareness to this issue.”

Douglass is overwhelmed by the support that the town has shown her and her son at this time.

“So many people have reached out to see what we need or what they can do to help,” Douglass said. “It’s amazing how much love and support we have from the community.”

Once Averie has recovered and is back home with her dad, Douglass will be able to rest easier but will continue to bring awareness to the child abuse that is happening.

“You don’t really know what it’s like until you’ve been through it,” Douglass said.

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