Oklahomans Help Dolphin Featured In 'Dolphin Tale'

Tuesday, September 6th 2011, 11:12 am
By: News 9


OKLAHOMA CITY – "Dolphin Tale" is a movie based on the true, inspiring story of a young dolphin that overcomes incredible odds after losing its tail. The dolphin learns to swim using a prosthetic tail created right here in Oklahoma.

"Winter" is the dolphin at the center of the story. She's a superstar at Clearwater Marine Aquarium in Florida. She lost her tail after it became caught in a crab trap. She learned to swim side to side, but that was causing scoliosis, a condition that could have shortened her life.

Five years ago, Kevin Carroll with Hanger Prosthetics and Orthotics in Oklahoma City heard the story and was inspired to act.

"I heard it on the radio and I was thinking, ‘Poor little dolphin lost its tail.' And that's what we do. We put prosthetics on people, why not a tail for a dolphin?"

Learn more about Winter the dolphin

Carroll spent countless hours doing what some thought was impossible. He designed a prosthetic tail for Winter. He had some help from Dan Strzempka.

One major challenge they faced was how to protect Winter's skin. They also needed something that would keep the device attached to the dolphin.

Hanger Prosthetics teamed up with a chemical engineer who designed a sticky material that seals the device in place.

They named it "Winter Gel." It's now being used on human patients with great results.

Even Strzempka, who's an amputee, has started using it.

"It was just unbelievable," said Strzempka. "It definitely improved my life. And the last thing in our minds was creating something that would help the human."

It was a slow process, but finally they created the right design for Winter.

Audiences will see the Hollywood version of Winter's story when "Dolphin Tale" opens in theaters across the country on Friday, September 23. The movie stars Morgan Freeman, who plays a character that represents both Carroll and Strzempka.