Empowered Stories

Winter the Dolphin

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Condition: Tail Amputation
Solution: Prosthetic Tail, WintersGel

​​In 2006, Kevin Carroll, an expert prosthetist and vice president of prosthetics at Hanger Clinic heard Winter’s story and offered to fit her with an artificial tail. “My heart went out to her, and I thought I could probably put a tail on her.” It took about 18 months for Carroll and Hanger Clinic’s Sarasota, Florida Clinic Manager, Dan Strzempka to develop the new tail for Winter.

Dan_Strzempka.jpgDan Strzempka

A certified prosthetist and orthotist with nearly 30 years experience, Dan Strzempka is an area clinic manager for Hanger Clinic treating in Sarasota, Bradenton and Venice, Florida.  Since 2006, Strzempka has been involved in the rehabilitation and development of prosthetic tail for Winter – the dolphin featured in the movie, Dolphin Tale – at the Florida Clearwater Marine Museum.

Strzempka is also an amputee, having lost his leg in a lawnmower accident when he was four, and along with his patients, has personally benefited from the use of a WintersGel Prosthetic Liner made with the same material he and Carroll created to protect Winter’s delicate skin while forming a more secure attachment for her prosthetic tail.

Kevin_Carroll.jpgKevin Carroll  

Kevin Carroll, MS, CP, FAAOP is an accomplished healthcare professional with over 30 years as a practicing prosthetist, visionary researcher, and skilled educator.  As Vice President of Prosthetics for Hanger Clinic, Carroll travels both nationally and internationally presenting scientific symposiums and managing clinics for difficult prosthetic cases.  He has appeared internationally on news broadcasts such as Dateline, 20/20, CBS Early Show, NBC Nightly News, ABC’s Good Morning America, and the Discovery Channel.

Carroll’s commitment to improving prosthetics has placed him at the forefront of numerous prosthetic breakthroughs.  He is co-developer of the patented Hanger ComfortFlex™ Socket System; a bone and muscle contoured socket that revolutionized socket design and comfort.  He is also engaged in the development of the Sense of Feel and Hot and Cold Sensory Systems and the Neuropathic Foot Protection System for diabetic patients.

Carroll’s guiding philosophy is simple: people first.  By listening to each person’s thoughts and concerns, and understanding their unique situations, Carroll has found a sure path to assisting people in their rehabilitation.   He specializes in the care of older adults and has a degree in gerontology, enhancing his expertise in this area.

When not caring for his human patients, Carroll volunteers weekends to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium where he works with a young amputee dolphin.  Carroll and his Hanger Clinic colleague Dan Strzempka co-developed the world’s first prosthetic tail that replaces the entire tail fluke.  A young Atlantic bottlenose dolphin, Winter, was caught in a crab trap near Cape Canaveral in December 2005, when she was just 18-months-old. Her tail fluke eventually came off, as it was severely damaged by the trap’s rope entanglement. Winter received round-the-clock medical attention to save her life. Having survived, she adapted to a less efficient, damaging side-to-side swimming style, as there was no tail fluke to give her thrust. Thanks to Carroll and Strzempka’s ingenuity, Winter became the first dolphin to have her entire tail fluke replaced with a prosthetic device.  The real life survival story of Winter and Carroll’s innovative prosthetic tail design came alive on the silver screen on September 23, 2011 in a 3D feature film starring Morgan Freeman, Ashley Judd, Kris Kristopherson, and Harry Connick, Jr.  Playing a prosthetist, Freeman will portray the prosthetic work completed Carroll and Strzempka.

Carroll is an American Board Certified Prosthetist and was named a Fellow of the American Academy of Orthotics and Prosthetics, one of the highest honors of the profession.  He is a member of the International Society for Prosthetics and Orthotics, a professional advisor for the Amputee Coalition, a member of the National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers, and a member of the British Association of Prosthetics and Orthotics (BAPO)

Carroll’s practice began in his native country of Ireland in 1978 at the National Medical Rehabilitation Center in Dublin.   In 1984, he moved to the United States, and later became Vice President of Prosthetics for Nova Care Sabolich, and then Vice President of Prosthetics for Hanger Clinic.

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Winter's Hanger Team