SPRINGVILLE — The power of a small community and one hometown hero is helping a little girl get through the trial of a lifetime.
Eight-year-old Lydia Petruca was born with a medical condition where she continually grew new clusters of veins in her foot causing her muscles to harden. Three weeks ago, doctors amputated the leg just below the knee. She's adjusting to her new life and found she's not alone.
Lydia smiled ear-to-ear sitting in her Springville home Thursday. Just looking at her, you would never guess what she's been through in her short life.
"Sometimes it felt like a hammer was dropping on it (her foot) over and over again," Lydia said.
With the help of her mother, she made a mold of her disfigured foot the day before her surgery. Thursday, 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.
Thursday was her first day back 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," Gabel 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?" Keith asked Lydia.
She nodded and they began their walk.
Though it took her a bit longer to make that one lap, you would have thought she just won gold.
"I'm thinking the whole world is supporting me and helping me stay strong," Lydia said.
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 wants me to be around, I'll be around."
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