10 News Exclusive: How doctors were able to save 6-year-old Aubrey Scaletta’s feet

She lost both her feet back in May in a tragic freak accident

BLACKSBURG, Va.Aubrey Scaletta who lost both feet in a tragic freak accident is now defying odds hoping to dance again.

Aubrey was backstage with her twin sister Grayson with the Blacksburg Ballet, waiting for that moment to beat the odds.

[READ: NRV girl who lost both feet in tragic incident defies odds, is now dancing happily]

The twins are part of the Nutcracker, performing as Bon Bon.

“It’s unbelievable where she’s come in the last few months,” Dan Scaletta, Aubrey’s father said.

While sitting in the audience, proud parents Dan and Lauren Scaletta smiled anxiously as they waited for their daughter to take the stage. They couldn’t help but be reminded of that terrible day when Aubrey’s life changed forever.

“She was riding with me when it happened,” Dan said.

Dan was driving the twins home from gymnastics practice in Montgomery County back in May when the unimaginable happened.

“It sounded like a big bang [and] the truck shuttered. [We] weren’t really sure what happened - next thing Aubrey is sitting behind me saying she’s bleeding,” Dan said.

Dan Scaletta said the girls were playing with a ratchet strap in the back seat when it somehow flew out the window. One end wrapped around the truck’s axle and the other end wrapped around Aubrey’s feet, ripping them off.

“Thank the lord we’re only two miles from the hospital,” Dan said.

Aubrey was then immediately airlifted to Carilion Roanoke Memorial, where she would face emergency surgery.

“When we first had the surgery, they were like, ‘Don’t get your hopes up,’” Lauren Scaletta, Aubrey’s mom said.

Doctor Peter Apel, an orthopedic surgeon, worked medical profession for eight years.

“We’ve never had a case where there was no planning. It was unexpected,” Apel said.

Apel performed specialties, like nerve repair and reconstruction in the hand.

“I had just finished dinner with my family when they called and told me about the situation,” Apel said. “I said her best chance is now with us: delays in care, if she were transferred, if we fooled around and went upstairs to go into surgery. Those hours end up decreasing the chances of success.”

Apel, who helped lead a team of about 15 who worked on Aubrey’s feet, told 10 News that he had never performed a surgery like this before.

“I said, ‘All of you are about to participate in something special. This is a case of a lifetime, and I don’t know if it’s going to be successful or not,’” Apel said. “I had two surgeons on one leg and two surgeons on another leg, and I had to go back and forth and tell them, ‘I need you to do this and do that.’”

Apel said the simple part was reattaching the feet. The difficult part, which he said took about four hours, was reconnecting all of Aubrey’s blood vessels.

“The blood vessels are very small in a child, the nerves are very small, and they had to be sewn together with suture that is as small as human hair,” Apel said.

After six hours of emergency surgery, doctors were done.

“We had reached a point where the feet were viable. It was unclear if it was going to make it or not. The only reason we stopped is because we had looked at each other and said we had done everything,” Apel said.

Slowly, Aubrey began to show improvements.

“To start off, it was very iffy. Every time the doctor came to check, you’re holding your breath. We talked about pneumonia and complications from that. At every turn, there was something new to worry about, but that’s gotten better,” Dan said.

Apel said after two weeks of Aubrey recovering and having no infection, doctors saw success. Aubrey’s parents said when she started physical therapy, they saw her truly heal.

“I think her spirit has kind of rekindled,” Lauren said.

Aubrey’s spirit did rekindle. She became energetic, smiling in the hospital and using her wheelchair as a bowling ball.

Her parents said her determination helped her defy the odds.

“With every physical therapy appointment, she’s like, ‘Oh, I did this. I went up four steps last time,’” Lauren said.

After multiple surgeries and weeks of therapy, Aubrey finally went home.

“That was terrifying because we became the nurses, and she didn’t like us as much,” Lauren said.

Once Aubrey got home, she was determined to do the things she loved and surprised everyone when she used her walker instead of her wheelchair for the Nutcracker.

“Her willpower and strength are beyond anything you could imagine. She is doing fantastic, and if we can touch another family whose child has trauma or anyone who is having a hard time, you could not see Aubrey and smile,” Lauren said.

Proud parents, enjoying seeing their daughters on stage, performing in the Nutcracker.

“We are seven months post-injury. We are extremely blessed, and I think she’s happy. We’re happy,” the Scalettas said.


About the Author:

Duke Carter returned to 10 News in January 2022.