Pediatric Orthopedics Puts Gabby Back in the Game

Meet Gabby Manzo: soccer phenom, basketball all-star and academic overachiever. At age 13, Gabby’s accomplishments have not come easily. The Montclair teen entered this world without a tibia, or lower leg bone, in either leg. Three years ago, her condition led to double amputation below the knee.

“Gabby is like every other teenager. She loves sports and spending time with her friends. You would never know that she does it all with prosthetics. She’s incredible,” says Lourdes Manzo, Gabby’s mother.

Nothing, it seemed, could slow her down. Until this past spring: during a soccer match, her knee buckled, causing her excruciating pain. Gabby’s physician promptly referred the Manzos to the pediatric orthopedic specialists and Sports Medicine Program at Miller Children’s Hospital Long Beach.

Sidelined by Injury

Initial X-rays of her knee came back negative, yet the discomfort and locking persisted. A subsequent MRI finally revealed the problem: a torn meniscus.

“The meniscus is a C-shaped disc that functions as a cushion between the upper and lower leg,” says Kenneth Huh, MD, pediatric orthopedic surgeon, Miller Children’s. “With her active lifestyle, there was no question that Gabby needed surgery.”

Lightyears Apart

The renowned Pediatric Orthopedic Sports Medicine Program at Miller Children’s provides comprehensive assessment, treatment and follow-up care to children, adolescents and young adults with sports-related injuries. From birth to age 21, children receive care from a medical team attuned to their needs – developmentally, physically and emotionally.

“Children have different needs than adults. Their bones are still growing and their muscles are still developing in the teenage years. That’s why when patients like Gabby are in need of orthopedic care, it’s important that they are seen by pediatric orthopedic surgeons who are specially trained in the care of children,” says Dr. Huh.

Miller Children’s multi-disciplinary team of experts collaborate on the diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation of children. The board-certified team of orthopedic surgeons specialize in a wide range of pediatric orthopedic sub-specialties including orthopedic trauma, hip reconstruction, sports medicine/injuries, limb, hand and foot deformities, as well as congenital and acquired spine deformities and scoliosis.

“Our home is nearly 50 miles away. It didn’t matter,” says Lourdes. “We would’ve traveled 200 miles if we had to. We wanted the best for our daughter. We wanted her care to be at Miller Children’s.”

Family Friendly Operations

Dr. Huh performed Gabby’s procedure at the state-of-the-art Henry L. Guenther Foundation Pediatric Surgical Center at Miller Children’s. In a whimsical under-the-sea themed environment, the center features seven operating rooms equipped with the latest technology for leading-edge pediatric care. A colorful pre-op playroom provides a place for child life specialists to prepare older kids for what will happen, and through play dispel the fears of younger children awaiting surgery.

“Our surgical center is designed just for kids. With two separate hallways, a child going into surgery never sees a child coming out of surgery. Parents are allowed to stay with their children through the time that anesthesia is administered. Every measure has been taken to comfort them during this difficult time,” says Dr. Huh.

Play for Recovery

With the Miller Children’s Sports Medicine Program, comprehensive care continues through recovery. For Gabby, this means faithfully following her post-op regimen. She trains with weights to strengthen her muscles and uses the stationary bike and treadmill to build her stamina.

Today, Gabby is no longer hurting. Dr. Huh expects that her injured leg will achieve at least 90 percent of the strength found in her other leg.

“Gabby’s determined to be ready for the start of outdoor soccer season this fall. Thanks to the wonderful care she’s received at Miller Children’s, she will be,” says Lourdes.