AKRON, Ohio (CBSNewYork) — Dancers’ legs are their most important asset. So what happens when one has to be amputated?
A case of strep throat and flu led to a rare infection for 7-year-old Tessa Puma, of Akron, Ohio. She ended up losing her left leg after doctors had to amputate.
“I fight every day,” Puma said.
Doctors initially gave her just a 20 percent chance of surviving.
“It was really hard to get used to,” she said. “But more and more I did it, it got easier.”
“I didn’t think she was ever going to be able to walk,” said Matt Puma, Tessa’s father. “I thought she was going to permanently be in a wheelchair.”
She proved everyone wrong immediately.
“She went right into dance camp with her one leg and a walker,” said Matt Puma.
From a walker, to a cane, to a few different prosthetics.
“It was a bit of a daunting task, just based on the demand that she puts on the prosthesis,” said Adam Engstrom of Hanger Prosthetics.
“It just looks like it’s all natural,” Puma said.
She’s found what works.
“She even says, I have to make it my way. I have to make it Tessa’s way. I have to figure it out,” said Matt Puma. “She has to work at everything harder — 10 times harder than anybody else.”
And there’s proof of that hard work. In just a year and a half, she’s back on the local, regional and national stages. And she’s winning.
“Hip hop,” said Tessa Puma. “It’s my favorite thing in the whole world.”
“She does all the hard work,” said Engstrom. “We just give her the tool to use, and then she just hits the ground running and flipping from there.”
Her message now?
“Just keep on trying your best!” she said.
Because that’s exactly what she’s going to do.