During a celebratory gathering at Riverside Community Hospital, a 23-year-old Jurupa Valley woman who lost both legs in a horse-riding accident involving a train Thursday will publicly thank the trauma team that helped save her life and put her on the road to recovery.
U.S. Army reservist Clarice Sykes suffered her near-death injuries on the afternoon of July 1, 2018, during an outing with her beloved horse “Commanche” while riding near the intersection of Limonite Avenue and Van Buren Boulevard in Jurupa Valley.
“I just want to take the time to thank all of the hospital staff for saving my life and taking good care of me … especially the individuals who were with me every step of the way” Sykes said in a statement released ahead of the event. “I thought I could handle anything I came across, but not this time. My outcome was beyond severe.”
According to the woman, when a freight train approached on the tracks adjacent to Van Buren, Commanche was spooked and leapt into the train’s path, where the equine was struck and killed.
Sykes lost her left leg from the impact and suffered damage to her right leg. Riverside County Fire Department paramedics found the victim unconscious adjacent to the tracks. Her sheared leg was found nearby and taken with her to Riverside Community Hospital, but the trauma unit was unable to re-attach the limb.
Sykes additionally suffered a brain injury and facial wounds, according to published accounts.
Hospital spokeswoman Cherie Crutcher said surgeons had to amputate Sykes’ right leg after identifying a life-threatening infection.
The young woman spent a month undergoing procedures and healing, after which she was transferred to Loma Linda University Medical Center, where her rehabilitation therapy began in August.
Sykes spent her initial rehab in a wheelchair, but the bilateral amputee vowed not to stay in one.
“We don’t always get to choose what happens to us, but we can choose what happens next,” she said.
Orthopedic specialists fitted her with “peg legs” that left Sykes at 4 feet 5 inches. She said that she learned to walk in them working out in the “hangar clinic” at Loma Linda.
Last month, the part-time soldier received her normal-sized prosthetics, called CLEGS-4, which utilize mobile phone-actuated smart technology to aid in maneuvering. She is back to her previous height of 5 feet 1 inch with the replacement legs.
“My drive, determination and self-motivation, and my own progress, is what has helped me get this far,” Sykes said.
She said she remains active in the Army Reserve.
“I even took the physical fitness test with no legs,” Sykes said. “I passed the push-up and sit-up requirements.”
She said she most looks forward to getting back to horseback riding, something she will “no longer take for granted.”
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