Boston bombing survivor with prosthetic leg shared special bond with Winter the dolphin

Stories are pouring in from around the world as people share their deep, personal connections to Winter the dolphin. Her death hits especially close to home for a survivor of the Boston Marathon bombing whose prosthetic leg was made by the same company that designed Winter's prosthetic fin.

Adrianne Haslet lost her lower left leg in April 2013 when a bomb exploded near the finish line of the Boston Marathon. The first time Haslet heard about Winter, she was in a hospital room.

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"I was so defeated and feeling so alone and so broken literally and physically and mentally," Haslet said.

After emergency surgery, the professional ballroom dancer was introduced to The Hanger Clinic, which would design her new prosthetic leg.

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"Brian [Heckathorn] said, ‘Are you familiar with Winter?’ And I was like, 'It's Boston. Yes,' like, thinking it was this season," Haslet recalled. "And he said, ‘No, no, the dolphin.’ And he showed me pictures on his phone."

Adrianne Haslet lost her lower left leg in the Boston Marathon bombing, but she got a new prosthetic thanks to the same company that made a new fin for Winter the dolphin

Knowing the same company that designed winter's prosthetic tail would also make Haslet's prosthetic leg put her at ease.

"Seeing her swimming and being strong and doing what she was doing and thriving gave me the idea that maybe I could walk one day again," Haslet said.

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From an aquarium more than a thousand miles away, Winter helped Adrianne navigate the most difficult season of her life. She gained the strength to dance again, to advocate for amputee rights, and to run across the finish line of the Boston Marathon in 2016. 

CMA team member kisses Winter the dolphin

She'll be back in 2022.

"There's such a special bond with an animal that you have that's different than a human," Haslet said. "So much of what you go through is so difficult to put into words. It's actually comforting to be able to see something using a prosthetic device that doesn't have words to speak to you because you don't need them, right? It's a feeling that you can't describe."

Though Adrienne never got to visit Winter at Clearwater Marine Aquarium, she and others faced with life-changing obstacles will forever be inspired.

"Just knowing that they did everything that they could to make her story known is really something that they should be proud of," Haslet said. "We all feel like we want to say thank you in a million different ways."

Haslet mentors young girls going through the beginning stages of limb loss. Just like someone did for her, she now shares videos of Winter so they, too, gain comfort from seeing how that dolphin beat the odds.