have faith Rocky's condition will continue to improve, a week after he
fell six floors from a balcony in Florence, Italy.
Rocky, 20, remained on life support Friday in a Florence hospital with
his parents, Frank and Marla, by his side.
"It's a miracle that he is still here," Vilma Paneno, Rocky's
grandmother, said Friday morning after speaking with his parents. "But
he's a fighter."
Rocky, one of several Pasadena Community College students studying
abroad, was standing on the balcony of a student housing structure the
night of Oct. 20 when the railing he was leaning against gave way.
"He leaned back to look up at the stars when the railing gave way,"
Vilma Paneno said. "The girl who was with him tried to grab him, but she
didn't have the strength to hold him."
The impact of the fall caused brain hemorrhaging and extensive
internal organ damage, severed Rocky's spinal cord and cost him both both
kidneys, she said.
"They did tell us right out they didn't expect him to live through the
night," she said.
But Rocky, a La Canada High graduate who played football for the
Spartans, has made progress since doctors operated Tuesday to stop his
"When they examined him the next morning, his blood started to
coagulate, and his breathing became a little more steady," Vilma Paneno
On Thursday, Rocky raised his arm at the request of his parents, but
wasn't able to open his eyes. Friday, he opened his eyes and tried to
speak, but couldn't, his grandmother said.
"We just have to wait and pray that he does not get an infection," she
said. "They just don't think the body can fight it off. But he's proving
he's a fighter."
Rocky Paneno's accident marks the second time in just over a year that
the well-known foothill family has dealt with adversity. On Sept. 11,
1999, Sam Paneno, Rocky's cousin and a former LCHS football standout who
holds several school rushing records, was injured while playing football
for UC Davis. The freak injury resulted in the amputation of one of
Paneno's legs due to complications from surgery.
Another one of Rocky's cousins, Nick Paneno, 22, called Rocky an
extraordinary individual whose excellent health and strong mental
approach to life have enabled him to survive.
"He spent a lot of his time in Italy in cathedrals getting in touch
with his faith," Nick said. "He's a very intelligent and a very athletic
Nick Paneno said his cousin loved art and was studying mathematics in
hopes of one day becoming a teacher.
"It's a tragedy," he said. "Like any tragedy, you have to place your
faith in some kind of higher authority."
Said Vilma Paneno: "God has mysterious ways of working, and I try not
to question him. We just have to keep the faith and pray for him."