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Roseville teen bounces back into championship cheerleading after life-changing spinal surgery

Thanks to her determination and a revolutionary surgical procedure, Gabby Bertelsen's story is just beginning

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — To watch Roseville native Gabby Bertelsen on the mat, you might never know the pain that's now behind her.

The 13-year-old competitive cheerleader helped her team, Nor Cal Elite, win the Summit-Varsity All-Stars in Orlando last month, a competition her coach called the "Super Bowl of cheerleading." 

"I look back and I get goosebumps every time I think about that award ceremony. It was just unreal," said Matt Alvarado, who has been coaching Bertelsen for three years. He called her "rigorous" and "determined."

"I don’t know where I’d be if I didn’t decide to do cheer," said Bertelsen. 

But last year, a severe case of scoliosis put her cheer career on hold. After being diagnosed as a child, it was getting worse. 

"Having to live with it, physically it hurt my body so much," said Bertelsen.

Bertelsen's mother, Kate Shoemaker, said multiple doctors told her family the same thing. 

"Her scoliosis is progressing really quickly, and you have to do something," said Shoemaker. 

Before the Summit competition was in play, Bertelsen visited Dr. Rolando Roberto at Shriner's Children's Hospital in Sacramento. 

Dr. Roberto performed a revolutionary scoliosis surgery called Vertebral Body Tethering.

"We allow the spine to still move, and as the spine grows, it grows itself straighter," said Dr. Roberto.

He said the small incisions are another benefit of the operation. They allow the patients to bounce back quickly.

Bertelsen bounced back quickly and back on the mat just five weeks after her February surgery. 

"I don’t think that me, one year ago, would be able to believe it. I feel so blessed for the surgery I got, and I’m so thankful for Shriners," said Bertelsen. 

Already a champion at age 13, thanks to her determination and a revolutionary surgical procedure, Bertelsen's story is just beginning.


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