CLEARWATER, Fla. (WFLA) — A St. Louis teenager is getting an opportunity of a lifetime, and it’s all thanks to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium.
After seeing CMA’s new dolphin pools through virtual reality headsets, 18-year-old Jade Westbrooks got to see them in person on Christmas Eve.
“Through my mind the entire time I was like this is bizarre,” Westbrooks said.
Westbrooks got an up-close and personal encounter with one of the aquarium’s rescue dolphins, Nicholas.
“I knew they were smarter than us but I didn’t realize we had a cool way to communicate with them and now I do and it’s really cool,” Westbrooks said.
Westbrooks was born with sickle cell anemia. She got her first blood transfusion at 3 years old. Within the last year, she got a bone marrow transplant. Westbrook’s older sister died from sickle cell anemia.
“I did it, it was hard but I had my mom,” Westbrooks said.
When CMA reopened its doors last year, many immunocompromised kids couldn’t visit. So the aquarium hooked up Westbrooks’ family with a trip to Clearwater and even a boat tour. Westbrooks says in some way, she relates to the dolphin.
“We both have scars that will never leave us, but at the same time we are happy and able to be here and connect with people,” Westbrooks said. “It’s okay bad things happen because good things are always bound to happen too.”
Westbrooks is looking forward to her future. She plans on attending Lincoln University and studying psychology.