Childhood dream of becoming a ‘mermaid’ comes true for Naples woman born without a leg

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Nikki Freeman said she dreamed of being a mermaid while growing up in Southwest Florida, but the Naples woman was self-conscious at the beach because she was born without a right leg.

“I would be the one wearing sweaters and jeans in July here at the beach, it was tough,” Freeman said.

For decades, Freeman struggled to find the confidence to make a splash in the Gulf because she couldn’t find a prosthetic her body wouldn’t reject.

“I was having a lot of difficulties. I grew an allergy towards the plastics they use in prosthetic,” Freeman said.

Now, as Freeman is finally able to get in the water alongside her eight-year-old son, Kai, she feels like her childhood dream of becoming a mermaid has come true.

“The fact that I can take him now to the beach and not have to sit out and I can actually wade in the water with him and enjoy it…it’s phenomenal,” Freeman said.

The reason Freeman is now more mobile is a special gift from The Hanger Clinic in Naples, where Meagan Schlosser works as a certified prosthetist and saw a need to help the Freeman family.

“We saw a need for her to have this mermaid leg and be able to go to the beach and the pool with her son,” Schlosser said.

The Hanger Clinic team customized a special right leg prosthetic for Freeman that is fit for her body and her passion for mermaids, customizing the outside to look like a mermaid tail. It was then given to Freeman for free, so she can enjoy new opportunities like swimming in the ocean with her son.

“I thought it was absolutely wonderful because now that she can go in the water with me…it’s a whole different world,” Kai Freeman exclaimed.

Nikki Freeman said she is grateful to the local team that made her mermaid dream come true and offers this advice to others who may feel like they are different from the crowd:

“Be comfortable with who you are,” Freeman said.

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