Bradenton woman meets famed Winter The Dolphin
CLEARWATER -Alyssa Whitson is a survivor.
“Please, never ever give up on yourself. You do inspire somebody, even if you don’t know who they are," says Whitson.
The Bradenton woman was brutally attacked, shot and left for dead in 2008. Whitson is a fighter and would go on to make a remarkable recovery at Sarasota’s Encompass Health Rehabilitation Hospital.
Wednesday is Whitson’s birthday and the former patient had one wish.
“Oh, I just love Winter. She’s just so neat and inspirational and beautiful," says Whitson.
Winter, as in Clearwater Aquarium’s famed Winter The Dolphin, a survivor in her own right leaving visitors in a state of wonderment over her state-of-the-art prosthetic tail.
Staff from Clearwater Aquarium together with caregivers from Encompass Health came together to make Whitson’s dream come true.
“And she came right up to me and I got to touch her. She waved at me and stuff and I got to feed her some fish. It just was very fun and exciting to be near her," says Whitson.
Helping Whitson during her dolphin encounter is Sarasota-based doctor Dan Stzempka, designer of Winter’s remarkable prosthetic tail.
“We’re almost a member of this special, really exclusive club that have been through something extremely difficult," says Dr. Stzempka.
He says Winter’s story of perseverance hits home for countless people, but the message between human and marine mammal is the same.
“Anything is possible. If you just want to do it or you set your mind to it, it can happen," says Dr. Stzempka.
On a day as special as a joint birthday celebration between Winter and Alyssa, their unspoken bond can almost be felt.