updated 09/19/2011 AT 2:00 PM ET
•originally published 09/19/2011 AT 3:15 PM ET
Winter the dolphin may have lost her tail, but she’s since gained the ability to inspire.
In 2005, the 3-month-old Atlantic bottlenose dolphin was found entangled in a crab trap off the Florida coast. The staff at Clearwater Marine Aquarium nursed the dolphin, named Winter, around the clock as she fought off a life-threatening infection that cost the mammal her tail. But losing the essential appendage put her in danger again – until clinician Dan Strezmpka came up with a unique solution and created a silicone prosthetic for Winter.
In an astonishing fight for her life, Winter survived, and the dolphin’s ability to adapt to a prosthesis has been a source of hope for thousands of disabled adults and children across the country, says Clearwater Marine Aquarium director David Yates. “Winter has changed the lives of people facing challenges.”
Winter’s story has also become a movie, Dolphin Tale, which opens in theaters Friday, Sept. 23. It stars Harry Connick Jr., Morgan Freeman, Ashley Judd, and yes, Winter the dolphin, who plays herself.