Boy with a Dolphin Tale swims alongside dolphin
03 September, 2013
An eight-year-old double amputee who learned to swim with prosthetic flippers has taken to the pool with the tail-less dolphin that inspired him.
Cieran Kelso flew to Florida from England for the rare opportunity to swim with Winter, a dolphin at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium and star of the movie 'Dolphin Tale', that uses a prosthetic tail.
It was something the water baby could relate with. After losing both his legs to meningitis when he was just one, Cieran also
uses custom-made prosthetic flippers to swim.
'His first words when he saw the film was, 'Winter's disabled just like me,' said Cieran's father, Gary Kelso.
'There are some pretty raw feelings that go into seeing Cieran swim with the dolphin.'
The family, from Northwich, in Cheshire, kept the trip a secret from the boy until August 16th when they were on the flight to Florida.
The flight attendants announced the trip was a surprise visit to Winter's home, organised by local tourism officials at Visit St Pete/Clearwater.
Cieran's dream had come true.
On the day of his swim, trainer Cammie Zodrow urged Cieran to tap Winter, the signal to raise her tail.
'You guys are best friends now,' Zodrow told Cieran, whose smile grew wider.
He then held onto Winter's fin and swam beside her, swimming in circles and backward for several laps.
For more than an hour, Winter and Cieran - at first alone with the trainer, then joined by his five-year-old sister, Layla-Eve, and Winter's 'sister' Hope - swam in the tank.
Cieran's stepmother, Gemma Kelso, 29, told MailOnline: 'I think he was in shock when he found out he could swim with her.
'He thought he would only be able to meet her - he was just the second visitor to be allowed to swim with her as well.
'It was so overwhelming. He had dreamed of it for so long.'
She added: 'On the film he saw himself in the dolphin. He can swim like her.
'He felt like he was like Winter. He had never seen an injured animal like that before.
'He said that she was his friend, he identified with her.
'There is a massive bond. You could see the way they were in the water together - they were very calm together.
'Since we got back he is calmer and more content in himself. His dream job is now to go back and look after Winter - he no longer wants to be a train driver!'
Cieran said he was Winter's biggest fan and he could have swum with the dolphin 'for a million hours'.
'It was greater than great,' he said after his swim.
Planning for the visit took about a year, during which Cieran's parents struggled to keep the process a secret.
Cieran was just hours from death after he was struck down with meningitis as a baby.
Despite pulling through he had to have both legs amputated below the knee and also lost the tips of most of his fingers.
He was later fitted with false legs and given a wheelchair to help him get around but he desperately wanted to swim with his friends.
That's when his father Gary and stepmother Gemma spent months fundraising on his behalf.
They raised enough money to pay for a custom-made pair of legs that could be used in water.
Paul Leishman at the Leeds branch of The London Prosthetics Clinic also made him a pair of flippers that attach to the ends of the feet.
'Cieran loves swimming and has been having swimming lessons for just over a year but he couldn't propel himself through the water or stay afloat as easily as everyone else,' Gemma said.
'As soon as Cieran first wore the flippers it was incredible the speed he could travel through the water, his instructor even had to swim with him to keep up.
'We want Cieran to see that even though his legs were taken away by his meningitis he can still follow his dreams and be like his friends, just sometimes we have to make slight adaptations to aid him along the way.'

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