Richmond man overcomes amputation and receives multiple degrees from University of Kentucky

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) – The walk to get your degree on graduation day is one of life’s special moments.

It’s a walk that has added meaning for a Richmond man earning his third degree from the University of Kentucky.

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Athletics can change a student’s life, and for Sy Bridenbaugh, his life was changed forever on the football field when he was 16 years old.

About 17 years ago, Bridenbaugh suffered an injury during a football practice.

At first, the injury started out as a dislocated ankle and broken bones in his lower leg.

Bridenbaugh says he didn’t think much of it and that he only wanted to go back to playing. Unfortunately, his injury turned more serious than he thought.

“Athletes have injuries and they bounce back but actually there was another change. I had contacted a flesh eating bacteria,” explains Bridenbaugh.

Bridenbaugh says he had 17 surgeries over a six week period that were necessary to keep him alive.

In exchange for his life, he had to sacrifice two very important things, his leg and his days on the football field.

While it was the end of his athletic career, it was also the start of something new.

“I had all this pent up motivation. There was this motivation for football something I loved to do. I asked myself, Could I find something I loved,” recalls Bridenbaugh.

Bridenbaugh did end up finding that special something, a love of learning that pushed him to complete not just one degree at the University of Kentucky, but 3.

This weekend, he’ll pick up his Doctorate in Education Policy Studies and tells ABC 36 News that he’ll “walk” to get it.

Over the years, he’s gone from being on the field to being a fan and from being a student to being the teacher.

He says as a teacher, he’s encouraging his students to do three things, be daring, different and embrace change.

Bridenbaugh will be speaking at his commencement and telling his story while he gets his third degree.