GEAUGA COUNTY, Ohio (WJW) – A Willowick woman is recovering after a freak accident happened at an organized race.

Rebecca Heasley is an avid participant in 5K races with her sister, but her passion for running took an unexpected turn when she was attacked by a deer while participating in the ‘Space Race’ on Oct. 1.

“I thought I got hit by another runner who just was too close,” Heasley said. “I saw blood on my hands and realized it was a bit more severe.”  

The deer hit her in the head with its hoof, opening a large cut and nearly ripping her ear off. She also sustained scratches from falling down.

“Honestly stayed calm through the whole thing,” she said. “I had a moment of freak out when I found my ear wasn’t where it was supposed to be, but other than that it was more or less like if I’m going to freak out, this is going to be much worse than it really is.”

Emergency medics were called to assist, but she was far out on the running trail in Observatory Park, so she decided to get up and walk back to the finish line.

“They said it would take a bit of time to get the gurney back, and if I could walk,” she said. “So, I actually walked out to the front of the race, so I finished.”

After surgery to reattach her ear and many stitches to close the wound, she’s now on the mend – returning to work at Progressive Insurance this week working from home.

“My job has been very supportive,” she said. “My only thing I can’t do is wear a headset, which it’s really easy with what I do to not wear a headset.”

To help with her medical expenses and bills through a tough time, her sister set up a GoFundMe campaign.

“The kindness of strangers is nice, but I completely understand,” she said. “My sister did set it up because it was a way for her to pitch in for me since she’s not able to help as much as she would like to.”

In the end, she’s just thankful it wasn’t worse but won’t let this incident hold her back in the future.

“I’m not going to let it scare me from getting back out there because it can happen anywhere at this point,” Heasley said. “It’s nature, it happens. You can’t be afraid of it.”