Gabriella "Gabi" Gero
When we catch up with the mother of six- year-old Gabriella Gero, she is juggling the phone while signing in her daughter, Gabi, for her first belly dancing lesson.
“Well, it’s probably the hip sash and the little dangling bells that she’s most interested in right now. But she’s pretty excited about the class, so and we’d thought we’d give it a try, says Beth Gero with a laugh.
“Gabi is a busy little girl who loves to be involved in sports, and we are diligent about keeping her active and her bones strong,” says her mother.
When Beth and her husband Andy were expecting their first child, they decided to forgo genetic testing. Andy has Osteogenesis Imperfecta Type 1.
“We realized our child could be born with osteogenesis imperfecta, but we chose to let the cards fall as they may,” says Beth.
Gabi was clinically diagnosed with Osteogenesis Imperfecta Type 1 after suffering her first tibia break at five months old. Researching the most current developments and treatment options for children with OI became a passion for the Geros. What they discovered in the process was encouraging, but finding a doctor who had any significant experience treating children with OI was “very discouraging,” recalls Beth.
“I would come in with arms loaded with papers and articles on OI for the doctors to review, and treatment options to consider. I was very persistent,” says Beth.
Gabi broke her tibia several more times during the next two years. Eventually the Geros found an endocrinologist who, after some ‘push back,’ agreed to begin Gabi on Pamidronate, a medicine used to strengthen bones, decrease pain and reduce fracture rates.
“I said here’s my research. Let’s give this a shot,” Beth remembers telling the specialist.
Gabi began an every 14-week infusion of Pamidronate at two-and-half. Around the same time, she also was fitted with ankle-foot orthotics (AFOs).
Once Gabi had consistently normal bone density scans, the Geros decided to wean their daughter off Pamidronate. Since turning two-and-a-half, Gabi has been ‘break-free,’ and no longer wears AFOs. She currently sees a pediatric orthopedist who seems ‘very open’ to new ideas in OI treatment, the Geros say.
“Gabi is very aware of her condition, and tells me when she shouldn’t do something. She’s very cautious and knows instinctively when something isn’t safe to pursue,” says Beth.
And belly dancing is just one activity Gabi enjoys. This past May she successfully competed in a junior triathlon –a quarter- mile swim, a mile bike ride and a quarter-mile run. In the spring, she wants to join the local swim team.
Gabi is in first grade and excels at reading and dress-up, according to mom and dad. She is accompanied by an aide who monitors her activities for safety.
Like many other parents of children with osteogenesis imperfecta, the Geros believe getting involved in OI support groups such as Yahoo and Facebook OI Parents websites, and keeping current with OI research gives their daughter the best chance for a normal childhood.
The Geros also formed lasting friendships and support groups with other OI parents when they first attended the biennial Osteogenesis Imperfecta Foundation Conference on OI in 2010. (The 2012 National Conference on OI will be held on July 13-15 at the Crystal Gateway Marriott in Arlington, VA.)
When not on the sports field or in the pool, Gabi is all ‘girly girl,’ describes her mom. She loves to shop, get her nails done and indulge her ‘insane shoe fetish.’
“She’s a smart, fun little girl who inspires us in so many ways,” Beth concludes.
Whether a belly dancer, triathlete or fashionista, Gabi is a typical little six-year-old who just happens to have OI.