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16-year-old recovers years after barracuda bite with help from Miami doctor

MIAMI (WSVN) - A teenager in Miami is on the road to recovery after an orthopedic surgeon found a way to help her after her surgeries.

For the first time in a long time, 16-year-old Gabriella Roque feels like a regular teenager.

“I’ve just had more energy and more motivation to do stuff,” said Roque.

When she was just 4 years old, a barracuda bit her lower leg in Key Biscayne.

“My dad picked me up, and my skin opened, and you saw my bone,” said Roque.

Ever since that day, she has dealt with chronic pain, even after undergoing several surgeries.

“It was really hard,” said Roque.

Roque became frustrated after there were no answers as to why her pain wouldn’t go away.

“She’d come to bed crying because the pain was exasperating. It was 24 hours, always there,” said her mother, Natalie Roque. “All I want for her is the best, and to see that there’s nothing I can do to alleviate her pain was hard.”

Not only did she have to put her love of dancing aside, but she was also having trouble walking and balancing.

“I went to several physicians, but they all misdiagnosed me,” said Roque. “It’s not their fault. It’s just that they never had a case like mine.”

Hope seemed to be lost until they met with Dr. Thomas San Giovanni, an orthopedic surgeon at the Miami Orthopedics and Sports Medicine Institute.

“This is the greatest feeling, benefit, I think, that we get as physicians,” said San Giovanni. “It’s the feeling of helping.”

He discovered her pain was stemming from a localized nerve issue.

“Imagine your nerve being like that constantly,” said San Giovanni. “That’s what she was dealing with, and nobody figured that out for her.”

He was able to remove the nerve giving her problems, saying it was a sensory nerve she could live without.

“She should go on to have a happy life doing whatever she wants to do. Run, jump … whatever she wants,” said San Giovanni. “If I didn’t figure it out, I don’t know who would. Somebody probably would have, maybe. I’m sure somebody would have, but it could have been 10 years from now.”

Now, Roque is happy to be recovering from the constant pain.

“I would just like to thank him for giving me a second chance at being able to do what I love and stuff,” said Roque.

“She’s a 16-year-old again. He gave us that, and I’ll never be able to put into words my gratitude,” said Roque’s mother.

Dr. San Giovanni believes Roque will not need to undergo another surgery again for the pain.