Tyy Fritzky smiles, coos and wiggles like any other 8-month-old. The scar from where doctors slit open his head to drain blood has faded to pink. A batch of blond hair is growing around it.
But the odds are against Tyy, who survived a violent shaking in his father's home in Zebulon in May. Three-fourths of babies who survive such abuse are left with long-term damage, medical studies show.
Doctors tell his mother, Nichole Fritzky, that it's too early to know whether Tyy's injuries will affect his development. Most tests on children as young as Tyy are unreliable, said Desmond Runyan, professor and chairman of social medicine at UNC-Chapel Hill. But when he starts talking, therapists can give him an IQ test.
The uncertainty is almost too much for Fritzky, 20, an assistant manager at Domino's Pizza in Wendell. She has been raising Tyy on her own since he was born in January.
On May 13, the day he was shaken, Fritzky left Tyy with his father, Jeremiah Aaron Jones, 20.
Jones at first told investigators that he threw Tyy onto a couch and that he bounced off the cushions to the floor, Fritzky said. Jones eventually confessed to shaking Tyy before dropping him, said Brad Harris, the physician who initially treated him at UNC Hospitals.
Tyy also suffered a fractured skull and leg from his fall off the couch. Doctors found evidence that he had been shaken before.
Jones is in the Wake County jail awaiting trial on a charge of felony child abuse.
Every few weeks, Fritzky lugs Tyy and his carrier to UNC Hospitals looking for answers. She gets few, and she's losing patience.
"I'm on edge all the time," Fritzky said.
Examining Tyy in July, pediatric neurologist Dr. Farha Khan dangled a toy and urged him to grab it. He didn't. She laid him on his belly and waited for him to push up with his arms. He didn't.
Khan said Tyy is a little behind with his gross motor skills, but she couldn't say how significantly. Brain scans show only so much, and therapy can dramatically help a lagging child catch up.
Fritzky said that Tyy reaches for things and pushes up at home. He just won't perform on cue. Such explanations help her keep hoping that Tyy will live a normal life.
"Considering he's been in the hospital more than half his life, I'd say he's doing good," Fritzky told the neurologist.
Fritzky's first definitive diagnosis came in July. An ophthalmologist declared Tyy legally blind in his left eye. He'll never get the sight back, the doctor told Fritzky. The doctor prescribed goggles to keep the other eye safe.
"I took the news like I take everything, every day," Fritzky said as she straightened the living room of her new apartment in Garner. "In stride."