23-year-old Mandy Horvath sat by herself for a whole day on the campus of UCCS (University of Colorado Colorado Springs) typing out the story of her extraordinary experience.
“I wanted to share my story with Imgur as I promised a while back..it has taken me over two years and countless hours staring blankly at paper or computer screens to formulate into words what a train-wreck (pun intended) my life has been thus far,” she wrote.
Titled “can’t run from this one,” it describes a harrowing event that catapulted Mandy into a life she never expected, something she says was meant to be.
On July 26, 2014, Horvath was hit by a train at 2am on tracks running through Steele City, Nebraska. The coal-carrying locomotive ran over her legs, severing both above the knee. She describes the moment of realising her limbs were gone:
“Let me go home! My legs are fine!” The lower half “of my body” was not restrained, so like a child throwing a tantrum, I kicked my legs in the air thrashing back and forth. It was alarming how light they felt and even more alarming was the blood that sprayed as I kicked. It wasn’t a bad dream anymore it was reality.”
Upon receiving the news, her parents raced from their home in Missouri to Lincoln, Nebraska in what usually is a two-hour drive, “my dad made it in an hour and twenty minutes,” Mandy says, laughing.
Mandy died three times before the trauma team at Bryan West Medical Center was able to stabilise her, though considering the extent of her injuries, they doubted she would survive.
“But I did survive,” she wrote.
Brave is an understatement when it comes to Horvath, who grew up in both North Kansas City and Smithville, Missouri with a younger brother named Maverick and a half sister named Angela.
“I’m the product of two truck drivers. My parents worked at the Harley-Davidson plant in Missouri for twenty years; they’re really hardworking people,” Mandy tells loaded in a Midwest twang, speaking over the phone from her renovated Colorado home.
“I have done a lot to this house since moving in. The things I’ve done here aren’t easy for someone like me to do and I’ve done it all by myself. If I showed you the before and after pictures of this house you’d be like, holy shit.”
She’s wise beyond her years but can still sound like any other twenty-something, and fall heady in love like them too. She moved out to the centennial state for a relationship which is now defunct. It’s not something she can say too much about. Nevertheless, we have much to discuss.
I hear rattling coughing from the other end.
“I’m sick,” She says, “Bronchitis.”
“Do you have anyone to take you to the doctor?” I ask.
“No I’ll go, I would drive myself if I had a car but I’ll get a ride.” She replies.
There must be someone who can go with her, I think. It’s crummy being sick on your own.
I remember seeing a picture accompanying her Imgur article; it’s of a grinning Mandy, balanced on prosthetics, cane in hand, standing next to a beautiful, inky black dog with tan markings.
“Do you have a dog?” I ask.
“Yes, I have a service dog named Missy,” she replies. I can hear the levity in her congested voice when mentioning her pooch.
“She’s a little different; she’s six months old, but my doctor had no problem certifying her already.
After I had moved into this house, I was working out in the yard, and she came over and leaned against me. She was originally the neighbour’s dog, they gave her to me and said she chose you.”
Missy isn’t the only service animal in the Horvath household; there’s a cat named Mage who Mandy says has so much personality–he’s almost a service dog.
She has help, though I doubt it’s needed. Mandy has been on her own for a long time and has been moving around the United States for the last two years looking for her place in the grand scheme of things. Colorado seems to be a good stop. She’s enrolled in UCCS with plans to dive into a pre-med course with a major in biology and a minor in law. The goal is a career in forensic pathology. Why? Because of her experience.
Her case was treated as just another attempted suicide, and no drug testing was done despite her symptoms being dissimilar to alcohol intoxication. By the time Mandy awoke from her medically-induced coma and demanded a test, it was too late. Whatever drug was in her body that night was gone.
Over the next few months the reason behind how she came to end up in that predicament began to reveal itself, “It is suspected now that I was incapacitated by a date rape drug that night.” Her symptoms supported this theory – she had no memory of the incident or a “blackout” which is a common side effect of drugs used in date rapes.
It was later suspected that a close friend of hers might have been involved in her incapacity that evening. Unfortunately, the person in question committed suicide a fairly short time after the accident occurred.
However in the aftermath, her recovery has been filled with more good people than bad,
“A lot of my ability to make it through came from people around me, I met a lot of really great people.”
To fill up the time before her spring semester starts Mandy is busy fighting, literally. She first became involved in MMA training with a gym called Caveman Crew during her recovery in Missouri, along with a group of fellow amputees. She plans to continue her workouts at Pariah, a facility in Colorado Springs.
“I train just like anybody else; I run on my hands and ass. I just walk around on my hands really fast while the others run. I have some pretty intense upper body strength. My core strength took a minute to get back. Before I moved out to Colorado I weighed 140lbs without legs, I gained a lot from depression. Midway through my recovery, I had to be re-amputated, which was a far worse experience so I was immobile for awhile. Because of MMA training I now weigh 72 pounds. I’m all muscle,” she chuckles.
Horvath is also heavily involved with amputee advocacy and makes it a point to speak to young women who are new to the experience, answering the tough questions that are otherwise ignored.
“I’m sitting there in the hospital, and this thought pops into my head. What is my sex life going to be like now? I don’t have legs, how is this going to work? That’s one of the questions nobody really knows how to answer. So I fired up Pornhub and typed in “Amputee Porn.” I was scarred for my life. I did not have sex for a long time after, I was so terrified. She says with amusement. “It was a turning point, I immediately wanted to meet other female amputees and wanted to be a part of helping them understand what the hell is going on.”
Turns out, sex with or without legs is pretty much the same.
Last time we spoke, she’d finally been gifted a car from a news station in her hometown and had a successful Reddit AMA promoting a crowdfunding campaign she initiated on her GoFundMe page. She still needs financial help separating herself from the relationship mentioned. “I’m fleeing my home.” She says.
She continues to strive for independence and despite personal and physical setbacks life tends to throw at the undeserving, she’s steadfast in her resolve to live it to the fullest.
“I kind of ramble sometimes, but I feel like I have something to say. I want to get out there and show people that it’s alright to be disabled, it’s alright to be an alcoholic, it’s alright to be a fighter. Life after the unimaginable is attainable.”
Having taken more than her fair share of punches, Mandy is coming out swinging in her own unique style and the best could be yet to come.
If you’d like to donate to Mandy’s effort, check out her GoFundMe page here.
Thanks to Mandy Horvath for speaking to loaded.
Loaded staff writer Danielle De La Bastide has lived all over the planet and written for BuzzFeed, Thought Catalog as well as print publications throughout the Caribbean.