Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery at UM/Jackson Enables Injured Orlando Gymnast to Return to Her Sport
Ella Chase started taking gymnastics classes at age 7, and immediately fell in love with the sport. She soon began practicing five hours a day, five days a week, aiming to become a high-level competitive gymnast. In March 2021, the Orlando native was in the middle of her gymnastics season, getting ready for a state competition, when she began feeling a pain in her back.
“Nothing I did was making it better, but I felt I had to push through the pain for the last month of our season,” Ella said. “I went to a doctor in Orlando who told me I had a stress fracture of my back, but there wasn’t anything he could do for me.”
Facing the daunting possibility of having to permanently leave gymnastics, her parents, Paul and Jennifer Chase, searched online and came across Allan D. Levi, MD, PhD, chief of neurosurgery at Jackson Memorial Hospital, and professor and chairman of the Department of Neurological Surgery at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine;. The Chase family went on to learn about his expertise in treating athletes with stress fractures. Dr. Levi is an internationally sought-after spine surgeon; he has also developed new minimally invasive surgical techniques.
“One of the vertebrae in her spine had fractured and moved forward relative to the vertebrae below, a painful condition called spondylolysis,” Dr. Levi said. “This type of lower lumbar spine fracture is typically seen in young patients like Ella, but fortunately few are severe enough to require surgery.”
After evaluating Ella’s spinal images, Dr. Levi arranged an initial telehealth consultation, and was able to schedule her surgery at Jackson Memorial Hospital last October. To repair Ella’s injury, Dr. Levi used small incisions in her abdomen to reach both the front and back of the spine. He then removed the damaged disk and inserted stabilizing devices to restore spinal strength, while retaining flexibility. After her surgery, Ella remained in the pediatric intensive care unit at Holtz Children’s Hospital at Jackson Memorial Medical Center before being discharged two days later.
After a nearly seven-month recovery period, Ella returned to her gymnastics practice, and continues with her dream to one day compete in the Summer Olympics.
“It feels great to be back on the mat again,” she said.
On Monday, May 23, Ella and her parents, along with Dr. Levi, will share her successful recovery with media.
Videos and photos can be downloaded via this link: https://jacksonhealth.photoshelter.com/galleries/C00008u_67XGkJ3Y/G00005so325cfJew/Bella-Chase-Gymnast
Allan D. Levi, MD, PhD, chief of neurosurgery at Jackson Memorial Hospital, and professor and chairman of the Department of Neurological Surgery at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine
Shelly Garcia, ARNP, UHealth Spine & Brain Care Center
Ella Chase, patient and gymnast
Paul Chase, Ella’s father
Jennifer Chase, Ella’s mother
10:30 a.m., Monday, May 23, 2022
Holtz Children’s Hospital
1611 N.W. 12 St.
Miami, FL 33126
Media can park in the Ryder Trauma Center media lot.