Doctors help elite gymnast pursue Olympic dreams in Houston

Mina Margraf
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Mina Margraf is an Olympic gymast hopeful, who spends more than 30 hours a week training to be the best of the best; but a condition she was born with put her plans on hold - until she found a special team of doctors at Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital.

It’s the land of the elite. The breeding ground of the Biles. 

“If you’re goal is to go to the Olympics, we’re the home here of Simone," said Coach Brian Gemberling. 

It’s the World Champions Centre in Spring, the home of the best. 

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“We go to gym first from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. and then we go to school until 3:30 p.m., and then we go back to gym until 6:30 p.m,” said Margraf. 

For the past 12 years of her 14-year-old life, Margraf has been tumbling, jumping and balancing her way to becoming the best gymnast she can. 

There’s only been one problem.

“It’s vessels clumped together, and it expands every time I turn upside down, and it hurts,” Margraf said. 

The teen has a Venous Malformation in her cheek, a condition she was born with. 

“She specifically came to us because she was having trouble during her tumbling routines, and when she was doing handstands or inversions, where the blood would rush to her face, her Venous Malformation would get larger and would become very painful," said Dr. Matthew Greives with Children’s Memorial Hermann/UTHealth.

For most kids, it would be bearable, but not for Mina.

“In between turns, I would have to ice then take my turn,” Margraf said.

“Unfortunately, it did hinder her training and she didn’t get as much time in a gym," Gemberling said. 

And for a gymnast who had moved to Houston from Hawaii just to train at the center, it was a setback. 

But then, she found Dr. Grieves at Children’s Memorial Hermann who suggested surgery. 

“Inject a sclerostin or an agent that would cause the blood vessels to clot off and close," Greives said. 

And today, her pain is practically gone. 

“I just felt relieved,” Margraf said. 

Other doctors had told Mina to give up the sport completely, but for this Olympic hopeful, that was never going to happen. 

“I really like gymnastics, and I never get tired of doing something I love,” Margraf said. 

Mina will always have the condition, and if the pain comes back, she may have to have another surgery. But for now, she’s just focused on making it to Nationals.