EXCLUSIVE: Cyclist hit by car has leg amputated, vows to compete

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Cyclist hit by car has leg amputated but vows to compete again. (KTRK)

Eight months after being hit by a suspected drunk driver in Fort Bend County, a second-generation triathlete is opening up about her long recovery.

Adessa Ellis Blankenship's is a story of survival that almost didn't happen. She was nearly dead on arrival at Memorial Hermann after she was hit in February. According to her and her family, doctors say her Iron Man training and her iron determination may have saved her life.

"I was training for my seventh Iron Man, Iron Man Texas," Ellis-Blankenship says.

She was cycling with friends on Highway 90 in Fort Bend County when a car hit her from behind. That was February 20.

"Thankfully the paramedics called LifeFlight as quick as they did because upon her arrival, within three minutes, her heart stopped," says her husband Mack Blankenship.

She had collapsed lungs, a lacerated liver, broken hip, fractured pelvis, and broken bones in her legs. Doctors had to perform a risky surgery called an open thoracotomy to put her back together internally.

"I've seen her almost die. I watched her suffer. I've watched suffering that was beyond what a human should have to endure. She's looked at me more than once and asked me why I just didn't let her die," Mack says.

Adessa has been in hospitals ever since. This week, she made the choice to have doctors at Memorial Hermann amputate her left leg. She tells Eyewitness News she made that choice because she has stuff to do.

RELATED: Cyclist hit by car still in hospital

"I lost it. Then I was thinking oh, Paralympics," she says. "I told everybody in my family and I told every doctor: Tokyo 2020."

"She couldn't do that if she couldn't use that leg. And the only we could get full usage of the leg again was to amputate," adds Mack.

While she smiles talking about training and competing again, make no mistake: the last eight months have been hell.

"It's hard. I've had to learn how to work every muscle again," Adessa explains. "I'm still not there, but I've seen the progress move along."

"It's really been just an amazing process watching her recover and watching the community respond to her courage," her husband shares.

Investigators say 25-year old Ryan Cipala, of Richmond, was driving the car that hit her. He's charged with intoxicated assault.

"He belongs in jail," she said through tears.

Adessa wants everyone to know she's bouncing back.

"There's life after amputation," she added.

She hopes to at least be able to walk the 5K in the Houston Marathon in January.

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