Captain Christy Wise’s leg was completely severed by a boat propeller in 2014. Today, she’s back in the skies flying search and rescue missions in Lockheed’s HC-130J for the United States Air Force. Wise is the first female leg amputee in the history of the U.S. Air Force to return to flight, and she did it just a year after losing her leg.
The injury was not incurred in a combat situation. In fact, Wise was enjoying the Florida coast, paddle boarding with her boyfriend when she noticed a boat headed straight toward her. She tried, to no avail, to alert the driver with a flashlight. When the impact first occurred, Wise had sense enough to swim straight down, which likely her saved her life. Instead of her head or vital organs being struck by the prop, it nearly severed her right leg at the knee.
Wise later found out that the accident was a hit and run, as the driver neither slowed down prior to the accident, nor did he stick around to see what happened after the impact occurred. Her boyfriend and a nearby fisherman were able to put her in the back of the fishing boat and fasten a tourniquet out of a tee shirt before making the 45-minute trip to the nearest hospital in Pensacola.
After eight months of rehab in San Antonio, Wise was able to pass a physical, running a mile and a half in 13 and a half minutes. She found motivation in an airman named Ryan McGuire, who had also lost his leg in a similar accident and was back flying C-17s for the U.S. Air Force shortly after.
Just nine weeks after losing her leg, Wise participated in the DoD Warrior Games, an adaptive sports competition for wounded, ill and injured service members and veterans. She took home a whopping 11 medals from hand-cycling, swimming, wheelchair racing and track and field.
With her boyfriend’s support, Wise founded a non-profit called One Leg Up on Life whose mission is to distribute prosthetic limbs and other necessities for children who have had limbs amputated in third-world countries.
At the moment, Wise is working on completing her requalifying requirements in order to regain her full-flying status. Wise is hopeful that she’ll be ready to head overseas for her second deployment this winter. For close to 10 years, she traveled to Haiti every year with an organization called Children of the Nations to help children in need. Now, she’s able to help those that need prosthetics.