OVIEDO, Fla. (WOFL FOX 35) - When a shark tore into 13-year-old Alysa Whetro’s foot, it could have meant the end of a promising athletic career for the middle school track star. Six months later, a surgery and a new kind of treatment have Whetro chasing her Olympic-sized dreams again. "Before everything happened I was going to a meet that would qualify me to go to the Junior Olympics," she said.
Whetro was swimming in the ocean with a friend in Cocoa Beach over Memorial Day weekend when she felt something wrap around her ankle. "I saw that it was all bloody, but I didn't know if I actually had my foot so I was like really scared because think like am I going to be able to run...?” she said.
Her dad’s first concern was a bit more basis. "Initially, it was just about her health and whether she'd be able to walk correctly and have both her feet,” said DeWann Whetro. That was six months, five casts and one new surgical technique ago. "We're pretty confident that, not only will she come back and be as good as she was, but now she's going to be the bionic kid, you know. She's got some extra stuff in there."
A few days after the shark bit halfway through Alysa’s Achilles tendon Dr. Amber Shane of the Orlando foot and ankle clinic operated. “The tooth actually cut into a flap of the tendon” and tore apart the skin on the outside of Alysa’s heel, Shane said.
The ragged wound would have to heal just right so that Alysa could return to a high level of competition.
Shane used grafts made out of amniotic and umbilical cord tissue donated by mothers after they give birth.
One gelatinous, rectangular piece of tissue was put on the tendon. Another was put on the skin on Alysa’s ankle. Shane said the tissue has been used for just the past few years. She is using it more and more on tendon-type injuries.
Alysa is back to competing in cross country meets. She plans to start training with her track team in January.
Her mom and dad want to give her Achilles tendon a bit more time to heel before she returns to track and field, where she is especially good at the high jump. With her shark-bitten Achilles tendon on the mend Alysa has goals beyond just returning to the track. “This year I really want to make it to the junior Olympics and one day be in the Olympics,” she said.