When she was eleven years old, Gianna Rodriguez had her annual physical exam. What was supposed to be a routine check-up resulted in a life-changing diagnosis. Gianna found out that she had scoliosis, a curvature of the spine, and her’s was extreme.
The x-ray showed Gianna’s ribs pointing downwards and organs in positions where organs never should be. When Gianna’s Mom, Josephine, first saw the x-ray, she was stunned and in utter disbelief. Thoughts of “how did this happen?” and “why her?” flooded her head. She didn’t understand it. Yet, as moms must do, she knew she had to do jump into action and do something to help her daughter.
They did endless research, saw doctor after doctor, but nothing seemed to be the right fit – until they found Dr. Richard Anderson. From the online information alone, Gianna and her mom had a gut-feeling that this time would be it; this doctor would be it. The first time Gianna met Dr. Anderson in person, he was wearing converse and scrubs and it immediately put her at ease. That’s how she knew he was the one.
The Rodriguez family finally had faith in a doctor that they could trust. The next step was to come up with a plan of action. Dr. Anderson told Gianna that she was past the point where a brace would make enough of a significant change to the curves of her spine. They didn’t want to jump into surgery right away, so they gave a brace a try first.
The first time she put on her cheetah-print brace Gianna had an anxiety attack. She couldn’t breathe and she couldn’t move. She couldn’t do what her friends were doing. When you’re young, all you want to do is fit in. As a teenager, you’re ready to gain your independence, and Gianna needed assistance to do simple things that everyone else around her could do normally.
Surgery would give Gianna her independence and her life back and she knew she was ready.
Gianna woke up at five o’clock on the day of her surgery, ready to go with her stuffed animals in hand. Dr. Anderson and his team placed two titanium rods into Gianna’s spine, with screws to hold the rods in place.
Not only did this surgery change the curves in Gianna’s spine, it changed her life. No longer did she have to be homeschooled or use a supportive chair every time she just wanted to relax. It was the simple things, like being able to go outside and lay down by the pool, that this surgery made possible.
It also let her dance again. At one of her post-op appointments, Dr. Anderson cleared Gianna to go back to dancing. Two years later, Gianna showed Dr. Anderson pictures from her first dance competition of the year and his jaw dropped. He kept looking at Gianna and looking at the picture in shock. Those pictures were tangible proof that Dr. Anderson and Neurosurgeons of New Jersey gave Gianna her life back. Without them, she wouldn’t be dancing. She wouldn’t even be walking properly. She was given another chance at childhood, and for that, she is forever grateful.