Leya’s Special Connection With Winter and Hope
Leya shares a birthday with Hope the Dolphin, October 11, but she also shares an inspiring connection to another Dolphin Tale star. Much like Winter the Dolphin, who has a prosthetic tale, Leya received a prosthetic leg at a very early age and has had to adapt to growing with it. Watching Winter’s story in the Dolphin Tale movies inspired her along the way.
Now, a few days before her 9th birthday, Leya had the opportunity to come visit Clearwater Marine Aquarium during the week celebrating Winter & Hope’s birthdays. Leya and her family stayed at one of the Winter & Hope themed rooms at the Wyndham Grand on Clearwater Beach. They visited CMA the next day and Leya was surprised with a special chance to meet Winter and Hope, the dolphins that inspired her through her challenging times.
A New Prosthetic Leg Every Year
Leya was born with a congenital birth defect of the left leg called PFFD (proximal femoral focal deficiency). At birth her thigh bone was too short and had no fibula. She became a Shriner’s patient at three months old at the Shriner’s Hospital for Children in Greenville, SC. At age one she had her first surgery to amputate her left foot in order to wear a prosthetic leg to walk. Soon after surgery, she received her first leg. She had to relearn how to walk. At age four, she had her second surgery. She had knee fusion done and growth plates removed. Leya has received a new prosthetic leg every year as a growing girl. She calls her prosthetic “Barbie.” Right now she has Barbie number seven. Leya is almost nine years old and it’s about time to make barbie number eight.
Inspired by Winter’s Story
Last year Leya had a good friend visit Winter and bought Leya the DVD Winter, The Dolphin That Can. Leya watched the DVD over and over. Since then she has wanted to see and meet Winter. This past summer Leya was able to attend a week long camp for kids who are amputees. She finally got to meet and get to know others like her. Leya was able to grow her confidence and strengthen her inner self. Her mother believes meeting Winter will continue that momentum of encouragement and strength to help Leya overcome her daily challenges.
As a child watching the Dolphin Tale movies, she really connected with Winter. Watching Winter get frustrated and unsure about the device but then giving it a chance and seeing it work really helped her. Winter didn’t give up and neither has Leya. The daily challenges of being an amputee as a kid can be rough but knowing others who are like her that push through, think outside the box, inspire others, and live a happy and healthy life is important. Now when Leya gets the opportunity to talk to others about her condition and her prosthetic, she likes to share Winter’s inspiring story as well.