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Army reservist who lost both legs learns to walk again, Here’s Her Story

A 23-year-old U.S. Army reservist has spoken of losing both of her legs when she was thrown off her horse in front of a moving train.

Clarice Sykes, from Jurupa Valley, California has had to learn to walk again on her new prosthetic legs following the freak accident in July.

Ms Sykes’s beloved horse Comanche became spooked by an oncoming train and ran out onto the tracks in front of it, dying instantly.

Brave: Clarice Sykes, 23, takes her first few steps on her new prosthetics, having lost both of her legs following the horse-riding accident in July
Brave: Clarice Sykes, 23, takes her first few steps on her new prosthetics, having lost both of her legs following the horse-riding accident in July

The 23-year-old was thrown into the side of the moving train, and was later found with only her right leg still attached to her body.

Ms Sykes’ left leg was later found nearby but could not be reattached, and she eventually suffered an infection on her right leg and needed to have it amputated.

‘I started riding horses when I was just five years old and then never stopped,’ Ms Sykes says.

‘I would ride my horse almost every day, and I had Comanche since January 2018 – he was my own horse.

Friend lost: Ms Sykes' horse Comanche, pictured together before the accident, died instantly when he ran out in front of a moving train with the Army reservist on his back
Friend lost: Ms Sykes’ horse Comanche, pictured together before the accident, died instantly when he ran out in front of a moving train with the Army reservist on his back
Horrific: The 23-year-old was thrown into the side of the train, and was later found with only her right leg still attached to her body, but so severely damaged it later had to be amputated
Horrific: The 23-year-old was thrown into the side of the train, and was later found with only her right leg still attached to her body, but so severely damaged it later had to be amputated

‘While riding my horse home on July 1 this year I was thrown into the side of a moving train. Comanche took off scared and he ran towards the moving train.

‘Comanche passed away instantly, and I was found about ten minutes after it happened, but my left leg wasn’t attached to my body – it was severed above the knee. It was found nearby me instead.

‘I actually don’t remember anything from my accident at all, but all I know is what the police on the scene were able to tell my parents.

‘I didn’t really have any bad reactions to the accident when I woke up, but I do remember asking my mum why one leg was shorter than the other.

Road back: Ms Sykes had to learn to walk again on her amputated legs before she could be fitted with her new prosthetic legs
Road back: Ms Sykes had to learn to walk again on her amputated legs before she could be fitted with her new prosthetic legs

‘I also had a broken nose, and my left eye was so swollen shut that the doctors didn’t even know if I had an eye at first.

‘I then lost circulation in my right leg and that had to be amputated two weeks after the accident due to an infection.

‘Overall, my recovery was really good because I didn’t get any phantom pain at all. I’m one of the very few amputees who hasn’t had any phantom pains, so I got very lucky with that.

‘I do however get very bad nerve pain in my right leg randomly though.

‘I was in the hospital for a month at first and then I went to rehab from there, where I stayed for two weeks.’

No fear: The horrific accident has not made Ms Sykes fear horses and is determined to get back in the saddle as soon as she can
No fear: The horrific accident has not made Ms Sykes fear horses and is determined to get back in the saddle as soon as she can
Inspirational: Ms Sykes shares her journey to recovery in the hopes it will help others
Inspirational: Ms Sykes shares her journey to recovery in the hopes it will help others
Determined: Ms Sykes says she 'cannot wait' to ride a horse again and will be back doing what she loves in 2019, but promises to 'never take if for granted'
Determined: Ms Sykes says she ‘cannot wait’ to ride a horse again and will be back doing what she loves in 2019, but promises to ‘never take if for granted’

Ms Sykes says she has faced a very difficult journey back to normality, having always valued her independence.

‘I feel like the hardest part of all of this for me was losing my independence and not being able to work, drive or ride horses,’ said Clarice.

‘Everyone I know, even my prosthetist, say that I’ve recovered extremely fast. I think because I’m in good spirits and I always try to be as positive as I can be, that really helps me. I’ve always been driven and motivated to achieve what I want.

‘Physical therapy was always good and something I looked forward to because I have always loved working out. Before all of this, I used to powerlift, and I could leg press 340kg.

‘I can’t wait to ride a horse again and I will actually start again next year. I feel like I’ve had enough for this year though.

‘For anyone else, don’t take anything in life for granted because one day you could have everything you could ever want or need, but the next it could all be gone at the blink of an eye.

‘Since my accident, I no longer take anything for granted anymore.’

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