Tessa Puma, 6-year-old girl who lost leg to rare infection: 'I fight every day'

Posted at 4:50 PM, May 08, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-08 20:11:30-04

Tessa Puma misses dancing, her friends, school and being at home, but the 6-year-old girl who lost her left leg to a rare infection continues to show courage and strength.

"Because I'm a fighter," she said. "I fight every day."

On Monday, Tessa gathered in the atrium of Akron Children's Hospital with many other young patients as super heroes dropped in for a visit.

Superman, Spiderman Iron man were some of the caped crusaders who used ropes to rappel down the 6-story high front windows on the main hospital building, cleaning windows with a squeegee along the way.

Asked who her favorite super hero is, Tessa responded, "Supergirl."

It's no wonder. The girl waged a super tough battle to stay alive after a case of strep throat moved through her bloodstream and became a bacterial soft tissue infection that ate away some of her flesh.

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The situation became so severe that doctors had to amputate her left leg below the knee to save her life.

"This was absolutely a life-threatening circumstance that the child was in. She was in significant danger," said Dr. Tim Pittinger, a pediatric and burn surgeon at Akron Children's Hospital.

Tessa has undergone skin grafts and multiple surgeries over the last five weeks, but her family told News 5 that her condition continues to improve and she's expected to start in-patient rehab this week.

Tessa is recognized as an outstanding gymnast and dancer and said hip hop is her favorite music.

"I love being on stage," she said. "I like the makeup. I like the competitions."

Her parents have stressed that she will be able to dance again one day and live out her dream to become a dance instructor.

RELATED: Nordonia kindergartner loses leg after strep throat, flu leads to infection

"She asks questions. Is she able to? We showed her other girls out there that have the disability that she has and you can still do it," said her dad, Matt Puma.

In fact, Matt found it ironic that super heroes came to see his daughter, because in his eyes, Tessa is a real-life hero.

"She's taking it very well for a 6-year-old," he said. "Even the hospital said they're surprised how well she's taking it."

Northfield, where Tessa lives, has rallied around the family by organizing multiple "Tessa Strong" fundraisers.

As the kindergartner continues to get stronger, she delivered a message to all of her supporters.

"I love you all," she said.

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