Patient Story: Gabriella

A scoliosis procedure on a medically complex patient leads to multiple positive outcomes

Gabriella’s family faced a daunting prospect following their first visit with orthopedic surgeon Michael G. Vitale, MD. A thirteen-year-old with multiple conditions related to her cerebral palsy, Gabriella was diagnosed with neuromuscular scoliosis with a 62-degree lumbar curve. Dr. Vitale recommended a posterior spinal fusion and instrumentation from T2-pelvis. 

“Thinking of spinal surgery scared our family more than anything. I contemplated many nights whether to go through with it,” shared Gabriella’s mother. “Gabriella has respiratory issues including ventilator dependency, seizures, feeding tube, the list goes on. She is a child with a complex medical history.”

A world-renowned expert in complex pediatric scoliosis, Dr. Vitale is also the Chief Quality Officer for the Department of Orthopedic Surgery. Together with physician assistant Amber Sentell Mizerik, PA-C, the team has a focus on making sure every procedure is done in the safest possible way.

“When I first met Dr Vitale and Amber, I expressed all my concerns. They took the time to explain everything in great detail. It was a lengthy process, meeting with a dozen of Gabriella’s specialists to ensure she would be safe during and after the procedure. Amber was always available to answer my frantic calls and emails when I had new questions about the procedure,” Gabriella’s mother shared.

After months of planning, Dr. Vitale performed a spinal fusion and instrumentation on Gabriella.

xray showing before and after scoliosis fusion and instrumentation surgery

Since the surgery, Gabriella’s life has improved in many ways. “Prior to the surgery she seemed uncomfortable often, we had good days and bad days," Gabriella’s mother told us. "Now she’s happier, getting sick less frequently and overall, much more comfortable. She’s even more alert and cognitively more attentive.” She added, “It’s truly a miracle!”

Gabriella’s mother is grateful that she met Dr Vitale and the team, “With cerebral palsy and all her needs, I never imagined she could reach this level of comfort. I feel so blessed that I met Dr Vitale. He’s a wonderful, kind, and caring physician. I trust him completely to care for my child. If he thinks your child would benefit from any type of intervention, listen to him. He changed my daughter’s life.” 

The Weinberg Family Cerebral Palsy Center is also grateful to have Dr. Vitale and Amber on our multidisciplinary team to care for the individual needs of each patient with cerebral palsy.

Dr. Vitale has written extensively on best practices in the care of patients with scoliosis.

Learn more about Dr. Vitale and the treatment options for scoliosis.

Read our spotlight on Dr. Vitale.


Meet the team

  • Michael G Vitale, MD

    • Ana Lucia Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery at CUMC
    Profile Headshot
  • Amber Sentell Mizerik, PA-C

    • Physician Assistant

    Amber has been with the Pediatric Orthopaedics Department since 2006. She has extensive experience in treating and understanding the needs of our pediatric patients. She is a certified and licensed Physician Assistant. She earned her undergraduate degree from University of Miami and her Master’s Degree from University of Florida. She works alongside Dr. Vitale conducting physical exams; ordering and interpreting tests; providing education to patients and families; and preparing patients for surgery. She also has her own office hours where she sees post – op patients and clubfoot patients. She works with the orthopedic team, parent, patient, and referring physicians to ensure that care is seamless.  In addition to her daily clinical responsibilities, she helps to coordinate the education of the Orthopedic team as well as improve patient and parent education.

  • Jennifer Pimentel

    • Care and Outreach Coordinator

    Jennifer Pimentel joined the Weinberg Family Cerebral Palsy Center (WFCPC) in 2021. In her role, she coordinates all aspects of care for patients and acts as representative of the WFCPC, collaborating with other internal departments and with external community-based organizations. ​

    ​Jennifer's expertise centers around service coordination in Early Intervention Programs, and case management for adults with disabilities.