Tom Wise kneeled in his bedroom for three hours, praying more intensely than he ever had before.
“Dear God, I hope you save her life,” he prayed. “If there is anything left in her life, she will make it worth it.”
Tom’s son David had just returned from a skiing competition in Europe when he started getting texts with snippets of information about his sister:
Something happened to Christy. It’s her leg — some sort of accident. I don’t know how bad.
His sister Jessica sent those texts. She had been at a dinner with friends in Las Vegas when an unknown number from Florida called. And then called again. The voice on the other end was coming from an ambulance.
Jessica boarded a plane to Florida that night to be with her twin sister.
Christy, meanwhile, was in the back of the ambulance, unsure if she would keep her leg — or if she would live.
Less than three months later, David watched his sister compete in track and field, carrying her prosthetic leg between events.
Her leg was amputated above the knee in April, so Christy was one of the most recently injured athletes of the 270 wounded service people participating at the 2015 Department of Defense Wounded Warrior Games, which ended Sunday in Quantico, Va.
“I should not be here today, but lots of miracles happened,” said Christy, who also competed in swimming and cycling during the 10-day event. “I guess God still wants me here for a reason.”
Christy, a captain in the Air Force, sustained the injury while lying on her back, staring at the stars. She remembers what it felt like when she jumped into the water near Shalimar, Fla., on April 11, her sweatshirt soaking up the ocean water.
Moments earlier she had been on her paddleboard, next to her boyfriend, Tim Wiser, when she noticed three green lights speeding toward her. She flashed her headlamp in their direction, fully expecting the boat to turn left or right. It did not.
After the boat struck her, Christy managed to push off it and swim down as fast as she could. That meant the boat’s propeller only caught her right leg, cutting it nearly clean off near the knee.
Wiser, also in the Air Force, managed to use his shirt as a makeshift tourniquet while a nearby fishing boat picked the two up and took them to shore. With an injury like Wise’s, you can bleed out in three to five minutes, and she was close.
“Swimming down saved my life,” she said. “And definitely Tim, he saved my life.”
David did not begin to grasp the extent of his sister’s injuries until the next morning.
“I realized I was lucky to have a sister still,” he said.
When they were young, David and Christy used to climb a tree in their back yard, going as high as they could, and then jumping down onto their family’s trampoline. The two of them and Jessica competed in board games, wrestling matches and on the ski slopes.
They all turned out to be good skiers. Christy and Jessica skied in college — Christy at the Air Force Academy, on her way to flying HC-130 search and rescue planes.
But David, the youngest, became the best skier. He won gold in the men’s halfpipe at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, with his sisters cheering him on.
After the accident, he wondered if the 2018 Paralympic Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, could give him another chance to ski with Christy.
But a lot needs to happen before then.
Christy began rehabbing soon after her injury, starting with push-ups in the hospital. She could not do much else while waiting for her leg to heal, so she worked out twice a day, joking with David that she now knows what it’s like to be a professional athlete.
In the gym one day, another amputee told her about the Department of Defense Warrior Games. Wise said she appreciated the opportunity to compete. It gave her something to work toward over the last several weeks and let her meet other injured airmen.
Now, her next target is returning to Air Force duty. Wise flew six rescue missions in Afghanistan in 2012 and was scheduled to be redeployed this December. Her doctors said she might be able to fly again within a year. Wise wants to do it in four months.
She has talked to David about the possibility of paralympic skiing. The two used to work on their balance by kicking off a ski and going down the hill on one leg. But for now, that goal is secondary.
At her boyfriend’s suggestion, Christy decided to start a foundation. For nearly a decade, Jessica has traveled to Haiti each year with Children of the Nations to help impoverished children, including several who were injured in the 2010 earthquake and now need larger prosthetic legs as they continue to grow.
So Christy is helping that cause, starting with a Memorial Day event she attended in Shalimar, the town where she was injured.
“It’s a little overwhelming,” Christy said of her new commitments. “Sometimes I sit back and think, I’m this 28-year-old pilot. I was flying and doing whatever. Now, I’m here at the Warrior Games and researching 501(c)’s and talking to you.”