A Texas woman who was in a horrific motorcycle crash when she was pregnant opted to have her leg amputated rather than save it to protect her unborn baby from the dangers of multiple surgeries.
Caitlin Conner, 29, was riding on the back of her then-husband Jaylon’s motorbike in May 2014 when a texting driver changed lanes without looking and hit the pair.
Conner was rushed to the hospital with several serious injuries including broken bones in her feet, a severed artery and friction burns from the skidding on the road.
Her left leg was also severely mangled from the crash.
Hours later, a nurse delivered the news that Conner was four weeks pregnant, meaning she would could only have minimal anesthesia and pain medication as she endured reconstructive surgeries to try and save her leg.
After six surgeries, Conner decided to amputate her left leg below the knee because she wanted to protect her unborn baby, who was also facing the effects of surgery.
Since giving birth to her daughter in February 2015, Conner discovered her passion for sports for people with disabilities, and now competes in para-cycling, running and swimming.
Caitlin Conner, 29, from Texas, and her then-husband were riding a motorcycle when they were hit by a texting driver in May 2014. She was rushed to the hospital with a severely injured left leg. Pictured: Conner with her daughter, left, and whole pregnant, left
When Conner woke up from her first surgery, a nurse told her she was four weeks pregnant. Pictured: Conner in the hospital, learning to walk while pregnant
Conner said she and her ex-husband were on the way to his parents’ house when the accident occurred.
‘The light turned green and we got into the left lane of a two-lane road,’ she said.
‘There was a young woman driving a white car who was angled across the entire lane in a way that made it seem like she was turning into the left lane.
‘I flew off the back of the bike, Jaylon went with the bike. I remember rolling and skidding to a halt. I sat up and looked at my leg and my left ankle was turned inward.’
Conner was rushed by ambulance to a local emergency services station then airlifted to the hospital.
While on her way into emergency surgery, she told doctors that she and her husband had been trying to have a baby.
‘The last question I remember before passing out on the way to surgery was if I was pregnant,’ Conner said.
‘I replied: “I don’t know, we’ve been trying but the tests have said no.” Then, [it was] lights out.’
It meant Conner would get minimal anesthesia and pain medication during the reconstructive surgeries to try and save her leg. Pictured: Conner’s leg in a brace and cast before it was amputated
After two weeks and six operations, Conner decided to amputate her leg to protect her unborn baby from the surgeries. Pictured: Conner climbing a wall with a rope and without harnesses
When she woke up the next morning, with her family beside her, Conner discovered that she was four weeks pregnant.
The surprise pregnancy meant that Conner had to have minimal anesthesia during the reconstructive surgeries she endured to try and save her leg, as well as limited pain medication.
The operations she needed included reattaching tendons and muscle, straightening broken bones, and taking a bone from her hip to fill a hole in her left ankle
After two weeks and six surgeries, she decided against trying to save her leg, and it was amputated in June 2014.
‘As soon as I learned I was pregnant, I had someone else to take care of, so I didn’t focus on myself,’ she said.
‘Everything was about the baby. My leg didn’t define me as a person, but the baby would in a way.’
Conner admits that learning to walk with a prosthetic was difficult as her body was changing with fluctuating weight and the effect of pregnancy on her spine impacted her balance.
Conner was fitted with a prosthetic and was determined to learn to walk before she gave birth. She gave birth to her daughter, Tinley, in February 2015. Pictured: Conner climbing a rope, left, and after running in the para-athlete Spartan race, right
Conner is now a para-athlete and competes in several sports including swimming and racing. Pictured: Conner climbing up a rock wall with a prosthetic leg
But she said her goal was to walk before her daughter was born – and she welcomed Tinley on February 13, 2015, weighing eight pounds and eight ounces.
Not long after, Conner started doing CrossFit to build muscle and become stronger to care for her daughter.
‘I started doing as many sports as possible just to see what I could do and I found a love for triathlons, swimming, cycling, skiing, figure skating and boxing,’ she said.
Since becoming a competitive para-athlete, Conner has founded a non-profit called Be More Adaptive which provides resources for adaptive sports.
She said she wants to inspire others to try things that scare them.
‘The best thing you can do in life is try!’ Conner said. ‘I was so complacent in life before and it shouldn’t have taken the losses it did to start living life.