Speaking with “Good Morning America” co-anchor Robin Roberts, the 35-year-old Purdy detailed being struck by meningitis when she was 19.
She spent two-and-a-half months in the hospital and lost her legs.
“The first few days were definitely the worst … I was on life support,” she said. “I was in a coma. And at one point, I was rushed into emergency surgery.”
Purdy told Roberts that she had a near-death experience.
“You kind of heard a voice asking you, pretty much, ‘Do you want to stay or do you want to go?’” Roberts said, and Purdy replied: “I did. And I made the choice to stay. And I'm grateful I did.”
During her recovery, Purdy -- who made it to second place on season 18 of ABC’s “Dancing With the Stars” with pro partner Derek Hough -- was dancing before she was walking.
“My legs were so uncomfortable. I honestly could not imagine what the rest of my life was going to be like walking in these metal, chunky legs,” she said, speaking of her prostheses then.
Her resolve strengthened because of her sister’s upcoming wedding, she said.
“I thought, ‘I'm going to walk in her wedding,’” she said, adding “as I gave myself that goal, I started working harder and harder. And I ended up walking down the aisle in her wedding … and thinking, ‘Okay, if I can do this, when last week this seemed impossible, if I can do this, then what is possible? What else can I do?’”
Purdy has gone on to earn several national titles and three World Cup gold medals, and wants to encourage others who are coping with their own difficult times.
“I always tell people the same thing. Whether it's a kid who has prosthetic legs or somebody else who's going through something, I think that -- we all have so much potential,” she said. “And we are capable of accomplishing so much … We all have this light, this inner light. And it's our job to find it and share it with the world.”