DANVILLE, Pa. - There was a chance Gabrielle Kenzy wouldn't even survive her birth at Geisinger Medical Center. Born with a severe case of spina bifida - when some vertebrae overlying the spinal cord are not fully formed and remained unfused and open - the odds seemed bleak.
That also seemed to be the case for Alex Vitunac when he and Ross Litz were brought to Geisinger's Janet Weis Children's Hospital (JWCH) following a serious auto accident in 2010 that left Vitunac in a coma.
But all three Danville youths are thriving teens today. And their JWCH treatment experiences have them all considering careers with hopes of giving back to other young people.
(Photo): Gabrielle Kenzy and her mother, Renee Kenzy, are all smiles by the Turtle Fountain in Children's Lobby at Janet Weis Children's Hospital.
Kenzy's spina bifida stayed with her long after birth. And while doctors were able to patch up a large hole on her back, she was still left with no feeling in her left leg, leaving her wheelchair bound.
But with the care and support of her mother, Renee, and the JWCH staff, she's now has little trouble getting around. This month she turned 21 and she's come so far that she now plans to drive this spring. And she'll attend Pennsylvania College of Technology in Williamsport's to major in early childhood education this fall.
She's already given back at Geisinger, working as a candy striper at JWCH for five years. And she hopes to help other children someday as a school teacher.
Ross Litz and Alex Vitunac
Vitunac and Litz were in the primes of their Danville High athletic careers when a car hydroplaned and slammed into theirs. Litz sustained several fractures, including a broken femur - the strongest bone in the human body. Vitunac, meanwhile, suffered a serious head injury that left him in a coma for 10 days.
But both survived, in part because of the critical care they received from JWCH on that fateful day. And they got back on their feet again with some rehabilitation assistance at Geisinger Health South.
Because of his treatment at JWCH, Vitunac, a sophomore exercise science major at Bloomsburg University, now has hopes of becoming a physical therapist or sports psychologist.
Meanwhile Litz returned from his injuries to start on the Danville football team as a senior. He's now a freshman nursing major at Indiana University of Pa. - a major he chose because of the care he received from JWCH nurses following the accident.
(Information from Mike Ferlazzo of Geisinger Health System)