Alumna overcomes boating accident to return to piloting

February 21, 2018

Christy Wise’s (’14) life took a drastic turn in April 2015. While on leave from the Air Force, where she served as a pilot, Wise was paddleboarding with friends in Florida when she became the victim of a hit-and-run boating accident. Her leg was severely injured, and as she lay in the back of the ambulance, Wise resolved to get back to flying — somehow.

“I knew of a guy who was an amputee and had returned to flying after his accident,” Wise said. “I thought to myself, ‘OK, worst-case scenario, if I lose my leg, I know that he did it, so I can too.’”

Her leg had to be amputated. Fourteen months later, she became not only the sixth amputee (and the first female amputee) in Air Force history to return to piloting but went on to compete in the Department of Defense Wounded Warrior Games, where she won more than 11 medals. She competed in the 2016 and 2017 Invictus Games — a Paralympic-style event for wounded warriors founded by Britain’s Prince Harry. In September, she won five individual bronze medals in cycling and track events — and had the chance to meet the prince.

“I shouldn’t be alive after what happened,” said Wise, who earned her master’s degree in theology through Liberty’s online program and is now an Air Force captain based in Tucson, Ariz. “The only way I can explain it is that it was a God thing.”

During recovery, she kept up-to-date on her piloting skills by using simulators. Wise moved to a rehabilitation clinic and began strength training. She was recruited to participate in the Warrior Games before she was released.

Now Wise and her twin sister, Jessica, run a nonprofit called One Leg Up On Life, which is dedicated to fitting young amputees in need with prosthetic limbs. Wise is also passionate about caring for foster children — she has taken in close to 30 of them.

Despite her triumphs, Wise said she doesn’t want people to put her on a pedestal but to know that she still has moments when she has to rely on God.

“There are times that I’ll run a race or compete in some event, but on the way back to the car, I’ll trip and fall on my prosthetic leg,” she said. “And I’ll just sit there and cry. But it’s my faith, friends, and family that keep me grounded through the whole situation.”

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