A little girl who lost both her feet after her dad accidentally ran over her with a lawn mower has defied the odds to keep doing her favorite thing — dance.
Emma McGraw, 11, ran into the garden while dad Joe, 46, was cutting the grass on a ride-on mower when he backed into her, cutting off both her feet.
The Maryland youngster, who was just 5 at the time, suffered profuse bleeding and was airlifted to hospital where she underwent emergency surgery.
Now she wears a prosthetic right leg after losing the foot from the ankle down, and wears a prosthetic foot over the one third of her left foot that remains.
The determined schoolgirl had four surgeries during a month in hospital and spent six weeks in rehab after the trauma to relearn how to walk.
Now she’s such a natural with her prosthetics that she’s returned to doing the thing she enjoyed most before the accident — dancing.
Talented McGraw loved jazz, tap and ballet as a young child and practiced every week but was left unable to dance at first as she adapted to her new limbs.
She whirls and waltzes when she performs onstage with the other girls in her class – and most of the spectators have no idea of what she’s been through.
“I thought she was never going to be able to dance again but Emma has always been a determined little kid,” Jen McGraw, the girl’s mother, said.
“When I’m dancing if I can’t point my foot or move it around I can shuffle my body to make it look like it’s being pointed instead of actually doing it,” McGraw said. “I try to do things in different ways. A lot of people think it is inspiring so I just try to keep doing it so I can inspire others.”
Jen, who is a teacher, said that one of the hardest things about the accident is that people assume she was riding on it or that the family wasn’t acting responsibly.
“I left the room for a minute, we were getting ready to leave to pick up my older daughter Molly from dance class,” she said. “My husband was backing the lawnmower up as he was putting it away and she ran behind him. She fell over and he went over her.
“He had assumed she was in the house with me. He felt something and stopped and pulled forward and realized it was Emma,” she said. “I was just completely in shock. My husband called my name and I thought, ‘Oh, maybe she skimmed her knee.’ The whole thing was a nightmare.
“A paramedic who lives near us came right away and we had wrapped her up to try and stop the bleeding,” she said. “Emma was awake the entire time talking. She said, ‘I don’t want to go to the hospital, just put some water on it.'”
McGraw was airlifted to John Hopkins in Baltimore, where she underwent surgery with her anxious parents by her side.
Doctors tried to reattach the part of McGraw’s left foot that her parents had retrieved but her body rejected it and it had to be removed again.
In 2012 McGraw started attending camps held by the No Limits Foundation for children with limb loss which have helped build her confidence.
She even went to Washington D.C. to back a campaign calling for assurance that prosthetic limbs are covered by medical insurance.
Jen said she continues to do everything she did before – including dancing.
“Her prosthetic isn’t the type of foot that can pivot so sometimes for some of the dance moves they have to do she figures out another way to do it,” Jen said. “When I see her up on the stage I’m just so proud of her. She doesn’t let anything get in her way.
“If she wants to do something she figures out a way to do it, even it’s not the same way she would have done it before the accident,” she said.
“Emma is a special girl. Her compassion speaks volumes,” Mary Leighton, founder of Camp No Limits, said.