When a little girl had to have both her feet amputated following a freak lawnmower accident, it seemed that her greatest passion, dancing, was put out of her reach.
But now, six years after the horrific incident, Emma McGraw, 11, from Forest Hill, Maryland, has proved that nothing could hold her back, once again taking to the stage to whirl and leap for the crowd.
Emma was just five years old when she ran into the backyard while oblivious dad Joe, 46, was cutting the grass and he backed into her, cutting off both her feet.
Strong family: Emma McGraw, 11, from Forest Hill, Maryland, has learned to dance again after losing her feet when she was accidentally run over by a lawnmower driven by her father
Taking to the stage: A video shows Emma defying the odds to dance again despite the terrible accident
A look back: The accident happened when Emma was just a dance-loving five-year-old
The little girl suffered profuse bleeding and was airlifted to hospital where she underwent emergency surgery.
Now she wears a prosthetic right leg after losing the foot from the ankle down, and wears a prosthetic foot over the one third of her left foot that remains.
The determined schoolgirl had four surgeries during a month in hospital and spent six weeks in rehab after the trauma to relearn how to walk.
Now she’s such a natural with her prosthetics that she’s returned to doing the thing she enjoyed most before the accident – DANCING.
Talented Emma loved jazz, tap and ballet as a young child and practiced every week but was left unable to dance for four years as she adapted to her new limbs.
Now she whirls and waltzes when she performs onstage with the other girls in her class – and most of the spectators have no idea of what she’s been through.
Pretty posing: Emma practiced jazz, tap and ballet every week before losing her feet
In recovery: Emma was five when the incident happened. She had run outside while her father was backing up the lawnmower to put it away
Tough girl: She was airlifted to the hospital where she underwent surgery
Mom-of-two Jen McGraw, 44, of Forest Hill, Maryland said: ‘I thought she was never going to be able to dance again but Emma has always been a determined little kid.
‘I couldn’t be more proud that she was brave enough to dance again.’
Emma said: ‘When I’m dancing if I can’t point my foot or move it around I can shuffle my body to make it look like it’s being pointed instead of actually doing it.
‘I try to do things in different ways. A lot of people think it is inspiring so I just try to keep doing it so I can inspire others.’
Emma’s battle began in May 2012 when she ran out of the kitchen and into the backyard when her mom stepped out of the room for a moment.
Jen, a teacher, said: ‘One of the hardest things about it is that people typically assume she was riding on it or that we weren’t responsible, but that isn’t the case.
‘I left the room for a minute – we were getting ready to leave to pick up my older daughter Molly from dance class.
Opening up: Emma’s mother Jen, a teacher, said she had just left the room for a minute as they were preparing to leave to pick up Emma’s older sister Molly
Working it out: It took the little girl four years getting used to her new feet, both she does everything she was able to do before
‘My husband was backing the lawnmower up as he was putting it away and she ran behind him. She fell over and he went over her.
‘He had assumed she was in the house with me. He felt something and stopped and pulled forward and realized it was Emma.
‘I was just completely in shock. My husband called my name and I thought, “Oh, maybe she skimmed her knee.” The whole thing was a nightmare.
‘A paramedic who lives near us came right away and we had wrapped her up to try and stop the bleeding.
‘Emma was awake the entire time talking. She said, “I don’t want to go to the hospital, just put some water on it.”‘
Emma was airlifted to John Hopkins in Baltimore, Marlyand where she underwent surgery with anxious Jen and dad Joe, a contractor, by her side.
Big smiles: Emma’s mom says that her daughter ‘doesn’t let anything get in her way’
Joining a cause: Emma has attended camps organized by the No Limits Foundation to help build her confidence after the accident
On her way up: Camp No Limits founder Mary Leighton described Emma as ‘a special girl’
Doctors tried to reattach the part of Emma’s left foot that her parents had retrieved but her body rejected it and it had to be removed again.
In 2012 Emma started attending camps held by the No Limits Foundation for children with limb loss which have helped build her confidence.
Emma even went to Washington DC to back a campaign calling for assurance that prosthetic limbs are covered by medical insurance.
Mom Jen said she continues to do everything she did before – including dancing.
Jen said: ‘Her prosthetic isn’t the type of foot that can pivot so sometimes for some of the dance moves they have to do she figures out another way to do it.
‘When I see her up on the stage I’m just so proud of her. She doesn’t let anything get in her way.
‘If she wants to do something she figures out a way to do it, even it’s not the same way she would have done it before the accident.’
Camp No Limits founder Mary Leighton added: ‘Emma is a special girl. Her compassion speaks volumes.’