Teenager Overcomes Two Injuries to Dance in ‘The Nutcracker’

Jocelyn Garcia is dancing in San Jose Dance Theatre’s performance of The Nutcracker this year after dislocating her patella twice, thanks to her dedication and the Stanford Medicine Children’s Health care team.

In spring 2021, Jocelyn was practicing ballet when she dislocated her patella, or kneecap, and chipped off a piece of bone, which caused intense pain and swelling. 

“Jocelyn has been in ballet since she was 4 years old and was heartbroken that she could not be in the Sleeping Beauty production in the spring of 2021,” said Jocelyn’s mom, Charlotte.

Teenager Overcomes Two Injuries to Dance in ‘The Nutcracker’

James Gamble, MD, a pediatric orthopedic surgeon at Stanford Children’s Health, removed the piece of bone and reconstructed Jocelyn’s ligament to hold the patella in place. The surgery went well, and about a week later, she started physical therapy at Stanford’s Sunnyvale location.

“She is a true athlete,” Dr. Gamble said. “Recovery has two parts—the operation and rehab, which is the tough part. She worked really hard and recovered extremely well.”

After completing physical therapy, Jocelyn was ready to dance again. But unfortunately, in the middle of rehearsals at the theater for The Nutcracker in winter 2022, she dislocated the patella on her other knee and was unable to perform once again.

“She was even more devastated this time, since she had worked so hard to build her strength and dedicated herself to physical therapy and taking classes almost every day,” Charlotte said. “The toughest part for Jocelyn was not being able to perform the lead role of Clara she worked so hard for in The Nutcracker.”

After another surgery and more rehab, Jocelyn was able to dance in Cinderella in spring 2023 and join her high school’s varsity cheer team; and she will be dancing in The Nutcracker this month in the corps de ballet as a snowflake and flower and as a mouse in the fighting scene.

“These injuries can happen to any athlete, so it’s comforting to know that Stanford has a dedicated care team of doctors, nurses, and physical therapists,” Charlotte said. “We thank Dr. Gamble for his expertise, guidance, and caring nature throughout Jocelyn’s time of healing.”

Jocelyn said that she is now even more committed to work hard in both ballet and cheer. She shared, “Being onstage dancing and performing in front of an audience is something I love and where I’m able to express myself through dance.”

Elizabeth Sweeney, executive director of the San Jose Dance Theatre, said that she appreciated Jocelyn’s commitment to recovering and returning to dance.

“Jocelyn has a level of determination beyond her years,” she said. “Her dedication to her art form is admirable, and her ability to overcome these obstacles is a credit to her character and her supportive family.”

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