Bella Tucker's smile is back

Stepdaughter of Lynbrook native on road to recovery after losing limbs
By Theresa Navarra
Courtesy of

When 8-year-old Bella Tucker was rushed to the hospital on Easter Sunday with a severe infection, doctors held out little hope that she would survive. But through nothing short of a miracle, her family reports, Bella is alive and in good spirits, despite the long road to recovery that lies ahead of her.

“She is very accepting,” said Peter Roarty, Bella’s stepfather, a Lynbrook native who lives in New Hampshire with her mother, Selena, and their blended family. “She knows her loss and is ready to face what comes next.”

Last spring, Bella was a healthy little girl and a lively gymnast. All of that changed when she was rushed to the hospital on Easter with a serious infection called streptococcus pneumonia sepsis with DIC (disseminated intravascular coagulation). Her immune system could not react fast enough to septic blood that was causing her organs to shut down. Doctors managed to keep her vital organs working, but at a great cost to Bella. Due to extensive tissue damage, she underwent emergency quadruple amputation surgery on April 27.

On June 1, she was released from Children’s Hospital in Boston, where she had been since April, and sent to the Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital there. Twenty-four hours later, she was readmitted to Children’s Hospital with a severe case of pneumonia. Although it took her another month to recover, Roarty recalled that Bella had a great July, “rolling around the hospital with big smiles on her face.”

A smile from Bella, who is now 9, is worth the world to her family, considering what she has been through and the challenge she now faces: learning to live without arms and legs. “She has a lot ahead of her, but she’s in great spirits,” said Roarty.

Despite numerous surgeries, Bella had to undergo another one at the end of July. “Basically, her bones were still growing, and starting to protrude through her skin,” Roarty explained.

But Bella is ready to move on, and was recently fitted for prosthetic limbs. She will remain at Children’s Hospital for the next few weeks until she is moved to Spaulding for rehabilitation. Once she is acclimated to her artificial limbs, she will move to Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia to learn to walk again and to use her new arms.

“We’re there every day with her,” said Roarty. “We don’t leave her side.” To help maintain a sense of normalcy, family members play games in the hospital — even organizing scavenger hunts — to pass the time. When Bella heads to Philadelphia, Roarty said, “I’ll be going back to work to maintain my minimum pay, which should get us by.” Roarty, who works for JetBlue, has been on a leave of absence, and said that the company has been very understanding. While Bella is in Philadelphia, he said, family members will take turns traveling to be with her.

Despite the challenges ahead, Roarty said, they will help Bella overcome them. “We have such a good family — we’re all very close and we rely on each other,” he said. “Everyone just loves Bella. Her smile is addictive and we are so happy with all the amazing support we’ve been getting. ... She is going to amaze us all when this is over — nothing will stop her.”

Note: Bella Tucker will turn 9 on August 12, this week’s Herald publication date. Happy birthday, Bella!

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