Spinal surgery helps girl walk

Ezabella Blood born with cerebral palsy


HOLLYWOOD, Fla. – Ezabella Blood, 6, was born with cerebral palsy, leaving her unable to walk without braces, and even then, she would lose her balance and fall.

"I had recurrent nightmares of her falling down steps and bleeding, calling me," said Thomas Blood, her father.

Damage to the motor control centers of the brain, either during pregnancy or by some traumatic injury in early childhood, causes cerebral palsy. As a result, arms and legs can become spastic or rigid, and in some cases, it can also affect the brain.

Because cerebral palsy affected her legs, Blood was a candidate for a procedure that allows doctors to look at the nerves in the spine and selectively remove problem areas.

"If it shows a normal response, you let it be, and if it shows a grossly abnormal response -- where it's spreading to other nerve roots, looking abnormal -- then we actually just cut it, and that nerve root no longer functions in the reflex pathway," said Dr. Dean Hertzler with Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital.

Immediately after surgery, the spasticity in Blood's legs was gone.

"It takes a lot of rehab after the surgery to sort of rebuild and build muscles she's never used," said Hertzler.

Blood finished rehabilitation with flying colors.

"It's a huge difference, for me at least, because seeing her walk on her heel to toe now compared to before when she would stay on her toes and not be able to extend her leg fully out -- to be able to reach the heel is a major difference," said her father.

Three months after surgery, Blood was running and playing.

The procedure, called selective dorsal rhizotomy, isn't a cure for cerebral palsy but can be beneficial in many cases.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cerebral palsy is the most common motor disability during childhood.