Hunter, a big brother to two boys, is an inspiration to his family after embracing his new life and living it the best way he could.
TW: Disturbing content
Most people, when they get married, hope for a beautiful life full of love. They hope to expand their family and welcome children to whom they can offer the world. However, sometimes life throws a curveball and it shapes the rest of our life in an unexpected way.
When Rosalie Mastaler, 35, married Michael Mastaler she was ready for that beautiful life to unfold. They welcomed their first child, Hunter, in 2010 and second child, Cade, in 2012, and were a happy family, which included their police patrol dog, Jango. Michael used to work in the K9 unit with the Rialto Police Department. While Jango lived in the family’s back garden, he wasn't a pet. The dog wasn't familiar with Hunter and Cade, as per Metro UK.
In 2015, Michael let the dog out in the backyard and went upstairs. Rosalie had been out with Cade while her husband was in the shower. Hunter went into the backyard unsupervised and was attacked by the dog. Jango bit into the 4-year-old boy's leg and "violently shook him like a ragdoll, mangling his thin and fragile limb," as per LoveWhatMatters.
The neighbors heard Hunter's screams and rescued him. When emergency responders "arrived on the scene, they stabilized his injured leg, inserted an IV, and administered morphine for the pain. Hunter was then loaded onto the ambulance and rushed to the local airport where a helicopter waited to transport us to the nearest children’s hospital."
When they reached the hospital, the mom had the biggest shock when she realized that her son could lose his leg. The information, passed on casually by an intern, almost made her faint. "My knees crumbled beneath me. A member of the hospital staff rushed forward and caught me by the arm and held me up," she said.
She gave them her consent and even though doctors tried to save her little boy's leg they couldn't do it. While he was recovering at the hospital, he was on heavy doses of antibiotics that caused "bilateral moderate hearing loss and the need for hearing aids."
Hunter recovered slowly and painfully. Meanwhile, his parents found themselves feeling grief at the idea of not having the perfect parenthood they had hoped for. Their lives became filled with physical therapy and audiology appointments. Their son also refused to walk or use the prosthetic leg.
"Hunter felt like he had lost his childhood and he struggled to understand why he didn’t have his leg anymore and hated how he was different to all of his friends," Rosalie told Metro UK. Meanwhile, his father blamed himself. "Michael felt a huge amount of guilt that he left Hunter on his own, he feels like what has happened is 100% his fault. He feels like he ruined his son’s life. But for me, I knew how upset Michael was already with himself, so there was no anger or blame from me. It was an accident," said Rosalie.
Eventually, Hunter fought his instinct to reject that foreign thing that has now become a part of him. "I always knew that the prosthetic would allow him to do what he wants to physically, but seeing what he is able to do now is beyond my wildest dreams. We have pushed him to be athletic because that’s what he enjoys," said the mom. "Even seeing him walk for the first time was surreal, so to see him doing all of these awesome activities really is amazing. He won the first swimming race he ever took part in, and I just cried. He has exceeded my expectations and we are all so proud of him," she added.
In the last five years, he's made huge strides and can now walk, run, and move around independently with his prosthetic leg. He's taken part in a host of sporting activities including swimming, surfing, gymnastics, and more. He received support from the Challenged Athletes Foundation, which encourages people with physical challenges to lead an active life.
Rosalie, mom-of-three boys, said that Hunter has raced many able-bodied children his age through a recreational swimming team and won. They want the best for their son, who loved sports from a young age.
"I want him to try out as much as he can to help with his confidence. It has made him happy and he really is in a great place now," she added.