TOPEKA, KS - They were involved in near-fatal accidents four years apart, but two survivors have forged a bond that's helped one of them literally get back on her feet.
Julie Vandervoort is well on her way to recovery. Julie lost right her leg following a car accident last August. Her vehicle rolled on top of her, her legs pinned for an hour under the still-running car's burning-hot exhaust.
Among those who saw her story on 13 News when she was released from the hospital last October was Rick Morris.
Rick says he could identify with how Julie felt. In 2003, Rick was critically injured when he was thrown from a car at Thunderhill Speedway, then pinned under another race car. Lying in intensive care, Rick told his mother then that he'd use the experience to help somebody. He just didn't know what he'd do - until he saw Julie's story.
"It was like the light bulb came on and there it was right in front of me," he said.
Rick owns the Topeka Prosthetic Clinic and offered to give Julie a leg. In January, she stood up on her first temporary prosthesis.
"It was exciting," Julie said. "I was giving everyone standing hugs because I hadn't been able to do that in a while."
"When she stood up for the first time - the look on her face and her mom tearing up - it was great," Rick said.
But it's not over. Julie's "little leg," as she calls it, has stopped the dramatic changes in size and shape that come with healing - and make the temporary prosthetic no longer fit correctly. This week, Rick made her a permanent prosthesis with a new process that will allow Julie to walk out with her new leg the same day.
It's a leg Julie plans to show off. While she initially thought she'd want a cover for her leg so no one would know it was prosthetic, she now says she'll leave it as-is. She say, after everything she's been through, she's proud to say, "This is my story."
Julie's story has made Rick's story come full-circle. He says he feeds off Julie's motivation, and it gives him the intensity to keep enjoying doing he does.
Julie says it's because of Rick that she's not only walking again - but already doing a little jogging, too. She says for him - and the many people who gave donations toward her medical expenses - there's aren't enough words to express her gratitude.
Julie will take classes through Highland Community College this fall, studying physical therapy.