The perseverance of Leah Nixon

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Rapid City, S.D. (KOTA-TV)- Often times an accident makes headlines for a day or two, and that's it.
The victim's story gets passed up by the next big headline.
But in this story, we look at a local woman's battle to recover from a near deadly construction accident.

Last summer, a Rapid City woman's life was changed in an instant.
And just seeing her story, may change yours too.
It's been about 6 months since the accident, and she's been fighting every moment since.
This story focuses on the 'Perseverance of Leah Nixon'.

It was August 14th, 2018, early afternoon, at a construction site on Lemmon Avenue in Rapid City.

"We were putting up rafters and that morning it had rained a lot," says survivor Leah Nixon.

A crane tipped over, crushing, trapping, Leah Nixon beneath. Emergency crews worked to free her; but that took time, and her time was running out.

"They were able to lift the equipment high enough so that they were able to pull the patient out," Rapid City Fire Department Public Information Officer, Jim Bussell said that day after the rescue.

She was rushed to the Intensive Care Unit at Rapid City Regional. The picture was grim.

"It was like this golden black. I can't describe it so well. But it was kind of calling me. I would have died if I had chosen to go into that. I mean it was tempting because I was in so much pain and like," Leah says.

But what crushed her body could not crush the love in her soul. Leah made a choice.

"I think just knowing that my family would miss me a lot is probably the only reason I stayed," she explains.

6 months later, she has no feeling beneath her armpits, one of her legs is amputated above the knee. Getting things done is much different for her now, as a paraplegic. But Leah is all life, all fight, all in.

"I've had to learn how to sit up again and how to dress myself again, how to feed myself again," Leah says.

Now, 500 miles from home at the QLI Rehabilitation Campus in Omaha Nebraska. And on the day we visit, she's working on transferring out of her wheelchair, down a series of 3 boxes, and into an arm powered bicycle, using only her upper body, to get there. She was a runner before, but says she thinks biking is her new running.

Therapist Megan Potter says,"Helping Leah just take that next step towards living on her own and living independently and, ya know helping to bridge that gap from the hospital to the rest of her life," says Megan Potter, Coordinator of Physical and Occupational Therapy at QLI.

A life that includes Kelsey Fitzgerald who she first met 7 years ago

"I said how can you still love me when I'm like this and he said I think I love you for what's up here and what's in here," Nixon says.

"Her mind is incredibly strong and her body is incredibly tough. It's impressive," says Leah's fiance' Kelsey Fitzgerald.

"So I actually asked him to marry me. And he said, of course," Leah says.

She posted their announcement on Instagram, a place she posts a lot of life moments, and has more than 6 thousand followers.
Leah studied painting in college. She and her sister started a stationary company, called 'Tiny and Snail', before the accident. She has a few of their cards in her room and says they're hoping to launch 3 different lines this coming year.

What happened in August was an accident. But that is not the headline, because what's happened since, has been 'the perseverance of Leah Nixon'.

"Yeah, I think I'm going to celebrate August 14th just as much as my birthday because that was the day that I beat death," Leah says.