Winter the dolphin, and soon-to-be movie star, lives at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. Her unique story of survival inspired the movie Dolphin Tale, which opens nationwide Sept. 23.
The movie stars Morgan Freeman as the brilliant prosthetist who made a new tail for a wounded baby dolphin.
The baby dolphin would be Winter, who plays herself in the movie. Freemans character is based on two real-life prosthetists, Dan Strzempka of Sarasota and Kevin Carroll of Orlando, who had an ambitious idea back in 2006.
The two work for Hanger Prosthetics and Orthopedics, which has 54 locations including offices in Bradenton and Sarasota. Carroll first heard about Winter on the radio. The young dolphin was badly entangled in crab trap line when discovered by a fisherman. She was rescued and taken to the Clearwater aquarium. Her life was saved, but not her tail.
A tailless dolphin is similar to a person without legs. Neither can move like they did before, although humans can be fitted with prosthetic legs.
Dolphins rely on their tails to propel through water and do acrobatic leaps. Winter was compensating for the loss, but putting herself at risk for more injuries.
Prosthetic legs have become so sophisticated that the high-tech versions have computer chips. A dolphin with an amputated tail is just out of luck.
After hearing the radio story, Carroll called Strzempka. Winter needed a tail; they should make her one, he said.
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