Pettinger sets world records after losing leg in motorcycle accident

The Brookings resident's faith and determination kept her strong as she embarked on the recovery process.

Posted: May 9, 2019 9:12 PM
Updated: May 9, 2019 10:04 PM

BROOKINGS, Ore. -- Last June, Katy Pettinger bought her first motorcycle so she could surprise her dad on Father’s Day.

Three days later she was lying in the parking lot of her gym, with her bike totaled, her bones snapped, and a shredded artery filling her leg with blood.

“I wanted so bad to ride motorcycles with my dad,” Pettinger said.

Her plan was to practice in the parking lot, take a riding course, then ride to his house on Father’s Day to have lunch.

On the afternoon of her accident, her bike was not starting, and her dad happened to be at the gym. She gave up the surprise, and he was able to attach a loose wire that kept her bike from starting.

As she was showing him what she had learned, riding slowly through the lot and making turns, she began to fall. Her grip on the throttle pulled back, accelerating her over a retaining wall, and into a parked truck.

“My two main concerns were that I want to make sure that my dad was OK, and I didn't hurt anybody else,” Pettinger said.

In a few hours she was in a hospital in Redding. A surgeon was amputating her right leg above the knee.

“There was some concerns that there was an infection where the bone had been cut,” Pettinger said.

In the coming months, she’d have 10 surgeries, arriving home for good in early August.

Five days later she attended the Pirate Festival.

Seven months later she traveled to Portland, where she broke world records in weightlifting— without the use of a prosthetic.

“I love to lift weights. It's something I've done ever since I was a little kid. I never thought about necessarily doing a competition or trying to set records. I never did it for that reason. I always just I like to live strong or lift heavy,” Pettinger said.

It was her coach and minister, Edward Yeager, who helped guide her path to recovery.

“He’d be like, ‘Get in here, you're lifting,’ and it was just that push and the motivation to keep going, even when it was hard,” Pettinger said.

“She didn't have a doubt. She just said, ‘if you want me to do it, that's what we'll do’,” Yeager said.

Yeager met Pettinger when she was in high school.

“I'm both her Minister and her coach. I started ministering to her in high school, and then started coaching her quite a while ago. And then, after the accident, it was a different mission, a different process,” Yeager said.

After her accident, Pettinger had only three successful deadlift sets in practice.

While Katy had a prosthesis, she found it challenging to balance. “I was concerned about falling, and if I tweak my wrist I couldn't do bench and I can't do deadlift,” Pettinger said, so she chose to practice and lift without it.

“I've never seen anybody do a lift without the use of a prosthetic,” Yeager said. “When you have one leg, it's not the power that you have to worry about, it’s the balance.”

Before she left Portland in March, she had set world records for deadlift, bench press, and push-pull in Disabled 1 classification. She also set six state records, and three national records.

“It was the most amazing exhilarating feeling of my life because it wasn't just physical, it was so much more,” Pettinger said. “From the moment I walked in I felt at home I felt comfortable.”

Their faith helps shape their outlook on life.

“It is more important to focus on moving forward than to focus on the past,” Pettinger said.

Yeager added, “I want people to know they're not disposal. They have a purpose.” “We all have a gift in the blessing. So my whole job was to give her a message and bring her back to the fact you have a reason to be here.”

Soon, Pettinger will start wearing the prosthetic limb she shunned for lifting. “I will run again, I will walk again, and I will hike again. I refuse to let those things go.”

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