Ireland Nugent takes first steps to new future - FOX 13 News

Ireland Nugent takes first steps to new future

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ST. PETERSBURG (FOX 13) -

She never hesitated. Never flinched.

Instead, little Ireland nugget flashed a big smile as she took her first steps in her new prosthetic legs.

"She was jumping out of your lap! She was ready! I was really nervous that she was not going to take that well, because she's been a little nervous through all the processes. I think even the liners were worse than the legs. This morning with the liners, she was nervous, but those legs, she wasn't nervous. It was neat! It was great!" said Nicole Nugent, Ireland's mother.

"Children, you can strap two-by-fours and bricks on them and they're still going to continue to try and run! So we knew it was coming," said Sean Fritz of St. Petersburg, who knows because he's been there.

The former pro-surfing champ was born without a fibula in his right leg.

Doctors amputated it when he was three, not much older than Ireland.

"My parents made me very independent. My mother says to me quite frequently is one of the greatest things you can give to your children is wings. So they didn't baby me" Fitzgibbon said.

That independence led him to the water and the kind of freedom Fitzgibbon says he didn't always have on land.

"I think we all are, where we're supposed to be. There are no bad things that happen in life. They may see really bad at first but they lead us somewhere later in life." Fitzgibbon says.

He went on to win several national and East Coast surfing titles.

Now, he helps others find their independence by fitting them with their own prosthetics.

He's been a licensed orthotic fitter with St. Petersburg Limb and Brace for the last 17 years.

"I try to use that still, mom's advice, give them back their wings. If that involves me giving them a leg so that they can have their wings, then that's what we need to do to get them independent," Fitzgibbon said.

And he has no doubt Ireland now has her wings.

"She needs to adapt and she needs to continue to flourish and thrive and she will!" Fitzgibbon said.

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