Brittle Bones

May 30, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
X-rays are common for one Fresno girl who compares herself to an egg. One wrong move could spell disaster, because she's living with the most fragile bones you could ever imagine.

It's a playground classic. Dodge ball is a hit or miss game that can wear kids out.

Most kids can get hit with the ball and bounce back, but for Milca Gutierrez, it could mean a trip to the hospital.

"I would break my legs."

This Fresno 10 year old has broken her legs 12 times over the years and now her left arm is in a cast. This isn't just bad luck.

"Every time I break myself it's painful and I think it's like 107 the pain."

The Gutierrez family was happy with their newborn. But her mother noticed a bruise that wouldn't go away. What happened next during a medical checkup would change their lives forever.

"And I said what's wrong? She said your daughter has a broken leg. And I said why? Who broke it?" said Alberta Gutierrez, Milca's mother.

The tiny baby only 40 days old had a broken leg, a broken arm and several fractured ribs. Suspicious eyes focused on Milca's mother.

"The nurses take the x-rays then all the nurses look at me. Seems like what's this animal doing with that kid?"

Milca's parents later learned their only daughter was born with Osteogenesis Imperfecta. It's a brittle bone disease that can cause fractures with the slightest bump.

"She has a lot of pain and I want to do something but I can't do."

Despite tender touches and careful hugs, the breaks kept coming. It was impossible to avoid the mishaps of childhood like tripping on a rug or falling off a couch.

"I'm not any different. It's just my bones."

With every broken bone there's a trip to Children's Hospital Central California. Dr. Joseph Gerardi is part of the hospital's Orthopedic Department, a department that sees 22 thousand patients a year but only a few like Milca.

"Over the years we've seen her for you know really the expression we use there's a phrase in medicine TNTC-too numerous to count so she's probably been here more than a 100 times in 10 years," said Dr. Gerardi.

"No pain today? A little bit. On a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being the worst? 4."

"It's time for x-rays. The pictures will show whether the bone in Milca's arm is in its proper place." "This was actually one of her lesser breaks. This was one we were actually able to treat with just a cast. Lots of her breaks are treated with operations and so that's a lot bigger to do," said Dr. Gerardi.

Dr. Gerardi has inserted metal pins to reinforce Milca's bones.

"Typically though once they're done growing, once their skeleton becomes mature their bones tend to strengthen so they seem to stop breaking at that point."

"He's operated me. He's helped me on a lot of things set my bones and he's been a pretty good doctor."

The arm is better and the Gutierrez family takes comfort knowing there is a place in the Valley where Milca can mend.


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