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White Oak girl battling aneurysm

| Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2012, 4:56 a.m.
Gabby Hrinda, 8, of White Oak, holds the hand of her mother Tanya Hrinda as her father Ed Hrinda stands close by. Gabby was admitted to Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC when a cerebral aneurysm ruptured on Sept. 1. Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News

When Gabby Hrinda awoke on Sept. 1, she couldn't get out of bed.

The 8-year-old White Oak girl woke up with a throbbing headache and nausea, and her condition worsened within minutes as she lost control of her right side and began to have trouble with speech.

“It took us a minute to realize what was going on,” Tanya Hrinda recalled. “I thought she was going to be sick.”

Tanya said she and husband Ed Hrinda didn't know what to think when their 6-year-old daughter, Kate, who shares a bedroom with Gabby, asked them for help at 7:30 a.m. They approached Gabby, who was lying on the floor.

“Ed asked her some questions, and she couldn't talk,” Tanya said. “She couldn't get her full name out.”

The family called 911 and tended to Gabby as they waited for emergency medical personnel.

“White Oak EMS was there in the amount of time it took me to get her a pair of shorts and put a shirt on myself,” Ed said.

Gabby was transported to Forbes Regional Hospital and flown from there to Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC after a CT scan revealed she was bleeding around her brain.

Those events took place within one hour, and the rest of the day was a waiting game for the Hrinda family. After immediate testing, Gabby was in the operating room by 10 a.m. Her parents did not know of a prognosis until late afternoon.

One surgeon met the Hrindas in a waiting room to explain that Gabby had a cerebral aneurysm that ruptured. The bleed was stopped, but Gabby had used more than three times her body's blood volume through transfusions during surgery.

“We didn't know what to expect,” Tanya said. “They didn't know if she would be able to speak to us or if she would understand what we were saying to her.”

Doctors spoke to the Hrindas about Gabby's prognosis in terms of hours and then days. Now, they are hearing about Gabby's road to recovery over the course of months.

“She's made excellent progress,” Ed said. “It was a miracle that she made it, and it's been a further miracle every day.”

Moved from an intensive care unit to a private room in Children's Hospital, Gabby communicates with her parents through gestures and simple words. On Tuesday, she said, “Hi,” and “Bye.”

“She's able to understand,” Ed said. “She can communicate by nodding yes or no and by giving a thumbs up or thumbs down.”

While one reconstructive surgery will be required at Children's Hospital to replace a plate of bone that was removed from Gabby's head, she already is scheduled to move to the Children's Institute in Squirrel Hill next week.

“The doctors have suggested that we move ahead with Gabby's rehabilitation because she is doing so well,” Ed said. “She will come back for the surgery, but we don't want to hold her back from making more progress.”

The Hrindas said friends and family — along with the kindness of strangers — have helped them stay strong during a challenging and overwhelming time.

“The support from everywhere has been amazing,” Tanya said. “It's the White Oak community, McKeesport Area School District, organizations and businesses.”

From fellow students at Mon Yough Catholic School, Gabby has received get-well cards, balloons and stuffed animals to lift her spirits. From Jamie's Dream Team and local businesses, the family has received gift cards for fuel and meals.

White Oak Athletic Association teams are wearing ribbons to raise awareness for Gabby's condition. She played softball with that organization, and she swims with a borough team.

The Hrinda family attends St. Angela Merici parish, where Gabby performs in the choir and chime choir. Gabby also volunteers with the local food pantry at Sampson's Mills Presbyterian Church of White Oak.

As a thank you to the medical community that has aided in Gabby's recovery, Central Blood Bank will conduct two local blood drives in her name.

The first is scheduled for Thursday from 1-7 p.m. at White Oak Athletic Association, 1606 Lower Heckman Road. The association also will have a basket auction and other activities to benefit the Hrinda family.

The second blood drive is planned for Sunday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. at St. Angela Merici parish gymnasium, 1640 Fawcett Ave., White Oak.

Walk-ins are welcome at both events, but appointments may be made by calling 412-977-4422 or through online registration at

For those who cannot attend the White Oak events, donations may be made in Gabby's name at any Central Blood Bank location using the sponsor code ZRTN0964.

Gabby's recovery is awaited by her parents and siblings Andrew, 10, Kate, 6, Luke, 4, and John, 7 months. She is the granddaughter of Andy and Elaine Hrinda and Valerie Pompe.

Jennifer R. Vertullo is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1956, or

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