Sep. 22—When Maria Fuentes lost her leg in a 2021 boating accident in Lake Cumberland, she marveled at the kindness of strangers that came to her aid during the accident and saved her life.
Fuentes even put on a search to find the kayaker who discovered her after her accident so she could thank the man in person.
Today, Fuentes's goal is to "pay it forward," and to train at Somerset Community College's LPN program so she can help others by becoming a Nurse.
"Maria comes in every day with a smile on her face, just so much energy," said Tamara Eastham, an associate professor of LPN Nursing at SCC. "When she had the accident she told God that if she were to survive that and could help just one person, it would be worth the trauma, and I'm sure she that she is going to reach more than one person."
Her professors all claim that Fuentes's story is very inspiring and serves as a medium of empathy for her patients.
Fuentes does not see her injury as hampering her and says she uses it to continue to march on.
"Things happen and I know everybody is faced with different situations, but we just got to move forward even if we just take it a day at a time," said Fuentes. "After the accident I wanted to reach out to others, and what a better way than to be a nurse and be able to help others that may be in a similar situation."
Sarah Modgling, SCC's Director of Marketing also weighed in on her praise of Fuentes.
"Maria, we are so proud of your determination, joyful spirit, and desire to help others," said Modgling. "We are all thankful that you are part of the SCC family."
Fuentes also noted the importance of maintenance of her mental health to keeping her stable.
"Mentally I'm also in a good place. I feel like then I had a lot of support but there was still a lot of things I was unsure about," said Fuentes.
Fuentes does not let what happened to her slow her down and excitedly told about how her new prosthetic leg allowed her to feel in control of her external appearance.
"I was so excited the first time I was able to wear heels, it just helped like my self-esteem just to be able to wear heels and feel pretty," said Fuentes.
Despite the arduous early days of relearning how to walk and figuring out what her new life would look like following the accident, Fuentes has found ways to continue to enjoy things she loved to do before. She enjoys aerial skills, working out, and traveling.
"Each little baby step that I take is such a big accomplishment for me," said Fuentes.
Fuentes is still paying for her leg and can be reached for donation at Venmo: @mfuentes and PayPal: firstname.lastname@example.org
WKYT contributed to this story.