Resilient Young Ballerina Returns to The Stage After Nearly Losing Her Feet in Accident

7-year-old Aubrey Scaletta dances in The Nutcracker months after surgeons at Carilion Clinic reattach her feet

A resilient 7-year-old, Aubrey Scaletta, is making great leaps of progress after nearly losing her feet in an accident. Recently, she performed in The Nutcracker as one of Mother Ginger’s mischievous Bon Bon children – showcasing her incredible strength and determination. It’s a moment her parents won’t soon forget, much like the accident that changed her life.

Aubrey spent the past several months bound and determined to return to life as she knew it before a terrible accident this past May changed everything. Aubrey was on her way home from gymnastics with her dad and twin sister, Grayson, when the unthinkable happened.

Aubrey was playing with a ratchet strap when a portion of the strap went out the window and wrapped around the drive shaft. She was almost pulled out the window, but instead, the strap severed her feet. She was rushed by helicopter to the pediatric level one trauma center at Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital where orthopedic surgeon Dr. Peter Apel and his team acted swiftly.

Aubrey celebrates her release from the hospital with mom and dad.

“When I got the phone call about an hour after the accident, they thought they might have to transfer her out of town, and I said, ‘Hold on a minute. If her feet are salvageable, then her best chance is here with us tonight—not tomorrow, not in six hours, but right here, right now with us,’” Dr. Apel said. “We had to operate quickly to re-establish blood flow and reattach her feet to her legs. If we would have waited even a few hours, the feet would have died and most certainly would have been amputated.”

Dr. Apel performed emergency surgery to save Aubrey’s feet, a complex process to repair bones, arteries, tendons, nerves and skin. Typically, this would have taken a week to plan with teams of several doctors and surgical team members. The team at Carilion Clinic had 15 minutes.

Today, after multiple surgeries and hundreds of hours of rehabilitation, Aubrey is doing things her parents once worried would not be possible. Aubrey walks, runs and now even dances.

“It feels like it was all a bad dream. Even now it still doesn’t feel like it really happened,” said Lauren Scaletta, Aubrey’s mom. “I remember right after she got out of the hospital, I was running an errand and I saw a little girl in a dance leotard with her mom, and it struck me that we might never be able to do things like that again. So just being here and watching her do the things she loves makes me constantly say, ‘She’s incredible.’”

The weekend of Dec. 9, Aubrey performed alongside her sister, Grayson, in The Nutcracker. Not only was this a special moment for Aubrey, but for her sister as well. The accident, of course, was an incredibly traumatic experience for the entire family, and one they’re all still recovering from. Grayson, in particular, has been deeply impacted. She and Aubrey are very close, and both have been dancing since the age of three, but Grayson chose not to participate in ballet this summer, not wanting to return without Aubrey. Now, they are able to take the stage together.

“She is definitely a performer. She is a little ham. To see her back in her element, it’s unreal,” said Daniel Scaletta, Aubrey’s father. “She’s been dancing around the house for weeks in preparation, making us play the Nutcracker on TV so she can watch it. She’s probably the only 7-year-old that prefers the Nutcracker ballet to regular Christmas music.”

Dr. Apel says Aubrey’s treatment and recovery is ongoing and that he and the rest of the team at Carilion Clinic will help her along as her legs heal and grow. However, Aubrey’s parents don’t expect anything to slow her down, saying she always finds a way to achieve everything she sets her mind to.

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