I'm thinking the whole world is supporting me and helping me stay strong. —Lydia Petrucka
SPRINGVILLE — Eight-year-old Lydia Petrucka is just like every other little girl who loves to play on the trampoline.
But unlike most little girls, she has dealt with a lot of pain.
She was born with a venous malformation on her left foot, a condition in which new clusters of veins are continuously growing, compromising the function of her foot and causing a lot of pain, according to her family, who described the ailment on a fundraising website “A new foot for Lydia.”
The disease also caused a lack of blood flow to muscles in her foot and lower leg and caused them to harden like a dry sponge; a condition known as fibro-adipose vascular anomaly or FAVA.
"Sometimes it felt like a hammer was dropping on it (her foot) over and over again," Lydia said.
After consultations with doctors, amputation was discussed. And it was a final decision that would be left to Lydia.
"I thought about all I had been through and that there is only one other option," the young girl said. "I thought I should just go with it."
On March 27, doctors amputated the leg just below the knee.
“Our hope is this will give her a new start on life, and we know she will be able to do more with a prosthetic than she can now, hopefully pain-free,” Liesl Petrucka, Lydia's mother, said.
With the help of her mother, Lydia made a mold of her disfigured foot the day before her surgery. Last week she held it in her hands as she recalled waking up from anesthesia without her leg.
"The first time I saw it, I just couldn't look" she said.
But now she's adjusting to her new life and found she's not alone.
Last week she returned to school at Reagan Academy in Springville. Her classmates planned a walk-a-thon in her honor, and she was determined to be a part of it, but she didn't go alone.
As she walked out of her house, Paralympian Keith Gabel greeted her. Gabel lives in Utah and, like Lydia, lost a leg from the knee down.
"I actually had over 2,000 pounds of hydraulic pressure crush my foot for 15 minutes," he said.
He recently returned from the Sochi Paralympic games where he won bronze medal in snowboard cross. When he heard about Lydia, he wanted to support her.
"I definitely know what she's going through," he said as he placed his bronze medal around her neck.
The pair headed to her school together and, with crutches to aid Lydia, walked out onto the field.
Teachers and students welcomed them with applause.
"Do you feel famous now?" Gabel asked Lydia. She nodded yes, and they began their walk.
Though it took her a bit longer to make that one lap, she beamed like just won gold.
"I'm thinking the whole world is supporting me and helping me stay strong," she said with a big smile on her face.
She knows an entire community is rooting for her, and she's made a lifelong friend in Gabel.
"To be a part of her journey is a tremendous honor for me," Gabel said. "As long as she want me to be around, I'll be around."
She is not letting anything hold her back. When she grows up she wants to be a ballerina teacher or an Olympian.
The walk-a-thon raised money to help pay for out-of-pocket costs that have accrued leading up to her surgery.
Contributing: Viviane Vo-Duc