6-year-old girl with CP receives successful surgery

WSVN — In February, 6-year-old Ezabella was brought to Joe DiMaggio Hospital for an operation that could change her life dramatically.

Ezabella: "I am very happy and I cant wait to see my friends in school to see what they think about me."

Ezabella has cerebral palsy, which makes walking very difficult. She can explain what her life is like better than we ever could.

Ezabella: "How come the rest of my friends don't have braces and I do? I think I don't like them."

Her parents thought they had found a solution to allow her to walk normally: a doctor in St. Louis, Mo., named T.S. Park, that has performed surgery on thousands of children with cerebral palsy enabling most them to get rid of their crutches and braces.

Thomas Blood, Ezabella's father: "That would free up her muscles in her legs, to loosen her legs up more to be able to walk a little more freely."

But Medicaid would only pay for the surgery if Ezabella had it done in South Florida. No surgeon in the state does it like Dr. Park. It's why Thomas called Help Me Howard.

Thomas Blood: "If it was your child, you would want the best for your own child, and that's what I want."

We were making progress with Medicaid to get the surgery done in St. Louis when Ezabella got a break. Dr. Dean Hertzler, who trained to do the surgery just as Dr. Park does, transferred to Joe DiMaggio hospital.

Thomas Blood: "Thank you. See you soon."

He agreed to operate on Ezabella. Four weeks later, we got to see her.

Ezabella: "She stretches me, cause my legs are tight."

Ezabella was undergoing hours of therapy a day, different exercises to strengthen muscles she's never used, muscles the surgery allowed her to operate.

Jenna Maurer, therapist: "Her muscles have been tight her whole life, so we're just working on stretching her out, getting her to be a little bit more of a normal gate pattern. She's definitely walking better already than she was before the surgery, so we're just going to keep working on it."

It's hard work, unless you are a child who has never been able to run with your friends, and you are told this therapy will one day let you play like everyone else.

Ezabella: "They're telling me to do — heel, toe — instead of dragging it like a skateboard."

The staff at Joe DiMaggio kept Ezabella entertained between the weeks of therapy sessions.

Thomas Blood: "The hospital was great. Everybody helped out a lot. She has been doing a lot of activities."

She did homework to keep up in school, and friends from her class sent her a videotape to cheer her up. Ezabella seemed to be doing well.

Patrick Fraser: "Thank you for your time."

Ezabella: "You're welcome. Bye, Patrick."

Patrick Fraser: "See you, darling."

Then, a couple of weeks later, we got a call.

Ezabella: "Can I take this [ID bracelet] out, Poppy?

Thomas Blood: "Yeah, you can take it off."

Ezabella could go home.

Patrick Fraser: "How do you feel?"

Ezabella: "Good."

She is only 6, but very smart, understanding what she faces.

Ezabella: "Well, I need to walk first, then I can learn how to run."

Patrick Fraser: "But you are going to be able to do that, aren't you?

Ezabella: "Mm-hmm."

Fortunately, a 6-year-old doesn't know the surgery could have failed, but Dr. Hertzler told me it went well. Thomas was surprised by how well.

Thomas Blood: "Right now she can walk. Almost, if not perfect, but walks 100 times better than she did. I wasn't expecting to see something like that, that soon. Yeah, we are very happy and excited."

Today Ezabella can walk for a few minutes at a time. Watch. She showed us outside the hospital, down the sidewalk holding her father's hand, then she turns around and walks back towards us…by herself.

Thomas was told it would take Ezabella a year to be able to walk normally. Ezabella obviously doesn't plan on waiting that long.

Ezabella: "Well, all of my friends are excited for me to run and walk. Well, I am excited too."

Ezabella is already walking better than before her surgery. Much better, much sooner than expected.

Ezabella: "OK, see you later."

She is ready to go, to get rid of her braces, so she can run and play with all her friends.

With this Help Me Howard, I'm Patrick Fraser, 7News.

Contact Help Me Howard:

Email: helpmehoward@wsvn.com (please include your contact phone number when e-mailing)Reporter: Patrick Fraser at pfraser@wsvn.com Miami-Dade: 305-953-WSVNBroward: 954-761-WSVN