Kentucky woman stepping into new career path after boating accident

Kentucky woman stepping into new career path after boating accident
Published: Sep. 19, 2022 at 6:28 PM EDT
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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - Last September, WKYT’s Amber Philpott brought you the story of a Russell Springs woman who survived a terrible boating accident on Lake Cumberland on Labor Day weekend.

Maria Fuentes was saved, thanks to a mystery kayaker who she has since met.

In the last year, Fuentes has had to overcome the loss of a leg, but also set out to put a new foot forward and use a terrible accident to chase a dream of helping others.

At 32, Fuentes is back in the classroom. The mother of three works during the day and attends Somerset Community College at night.

To her instructors, Fuentes is a model student.

“Maria comes in everyday with a smile on her face, just so much energy,” said Tamara Eastham, an associate professor.

In January, Fuentes enrolled in nursing school just four months after we first met her and shared her harrowing story of losing a leg while boating with friends at Lake Cumberland.

Since that time, a lot has changed for Fuentes.

“Mentally I’m also in a good place. I feel like then I was, I had a lot of support but there was still a lot of things I was unsure about,” said Fuentes.

Fuentes was determined to not let what happened to her slow her down.

She was able to get a prosthetic right before the new year and it was a game changer in returning to a more normal life.

“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.

Life in those early days after the accident felt unsteady, but Fuentes set out to learn how to walk again. She got back to doing the things she loved, like aerial silks, working out and traveling.

Each new step was an exciting move forward.

“Each little baby step that I take is such a big accomplishment for me,” said Fuentes.

Fuentes made a bucket list of items she and her new leg would tackle and she has slowly been crossing them off. She has returned to the lake—not gone out on the water—but made peace with what happened.

And perhaps the most meaningful moment, she met her hero, the Ohio man who saved her life.

“Just the fact that I was able to see him and personally thank him for everything that he did that day, it was just amazing and we actually we still keep in contact,” said Fuentes.

For Fuentes, going to college was something she was ready to walk into. Her accident left her with a new appreciation for what the profession entails.

“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,” said Fuentes.

Her instructors see her determination daily and are well aware of the kind of nurse she can be.

“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,” said Eastham.

Because to Fuentes, being a nurse means using her own story and walking a difficult path to one day inspire those she cares for.

“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.

Maria is in good company when it comes to nursing students. Her program at Somerset Community College was just named number one in Kentucky by

Maria is still raising money to help pay for her prosthetic leg. She did receive help through insurance, but also has to pay out of pocket. If you would like to help donate you can send donations to:

Venmo @mfuentes9