Doctors caring for Isabel Perez in the hours after she was shot in the head by her mom weren't sure she would survive, but the 2-year-old girl is opening and moving her eyes and has begun to move one of her arms.

"I don't usually use the word 'miracle,' but if you can ever use it, this would be an example," said Dr. Ken Winston, the neurosurgeon treating Isabel at Denver Health Medical Center. "She's doing extremely well, wonderfully well, given the severity of her injury."

Police said Isabel's mother, Mayra Perez, 23, shot her in the head in the early morning of Feb. 6. Perez also killed her 1-year-old son Erick Perez and daughter Nevaeh Morales, 4, before turning the gun on herself, police say.

Isabel was in a coma until Feb. 17, but her interaction and playfulness have increased dramatically since she opened her eyes last week, said Dr. Margaret Clarke, Isabel's pediatric intensive-care physician.

"She's a feisty young girl," Clarke said. "She's been a feisty young girl from the get-go, as I understand from her family."

Denver Health's director of pediatric surgery and trauma services, Dr. Denis Bensard , said credit for Isabel's steady recovery should go to the paramedics who treated her after she was found in her northeast Denver home.

"When I heard that word 'miracle,' I remembered the words of Louis Pasteur, who said, 'Chance favors the prepared mind,' " Bensard said. "I would say in this case, the miracle favors the prepared team, and that's certainly what she had."


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Isabel will be transferred to Children's Hospital Colorado early next week. Her recovery likely will take years, Winston said.

Members of Isabel's family did not attend Thursday's news conference but released a statement thanking the paramedics, doctors and nurses who have cared for her at Denver Health, as well as members of the public who have supported the family since the tragedy occurred.

"From the family in Colorado Springs who sent us pizza in the hospital to eat, to the prayers and letters we've received from as far as Peru," they said, "our family is grateful for the prayers and kindness we've felt from the community."

Nic Turiciano: 303-954-1223, nturiciano@denverpost.com or twitter.com/nic_turishawno