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Woman who lost legs in locomotive accident climbs Mount Kilimanjaro

Mandy Horvath 1st female double-amputee to do so
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Posted at 8:31 AM, Jul 14, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-14 14:12:07-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Anyone who tells Mandy Horvath she can't do something should prepare to be proven wrong.

"I'm used to people underestimating me," said Horvath, a native of Smithville, Missouri. "It's gotten easier to navigate as time goes on, but hopefully, through this, I won't have to answer too many more questions about whether or not I can."

Any questions of her strength and determination could certainly be put to rest after she climbed Mount Kilimanjaro seven years after losing both of her legs.

In 2014, Horvath was at a bar in Steel City, Nebraska, when she stepped outside to smoke a cigarette. That's when her memory goes black. She said she suspects one of her drinks may have been drugged. The next thing she remembers is waking up in an ambulance with an EMS worker telling her she lost both of her legs. Her heart stopped beating three times – once in the ambulance, once in the medical helicopter, and once during surgery.

When she woke up three days later, she was told she had been hit by a locomotive.

In the years following the accident, Horvath said she struggled to accept her new reality.

"I had some issues with alcoholism," she said.

At one point, she considered ending her own life.

On April 22, 2018, she drove to Eagles Nest, a mountain peak in Colorado Springs, Colorado, where she now resides.

"[I had] no intention of returning back down the mountain," she said. "I fell asleep with a loaded 45 on my lap and woke to the sun coming through the trees. And I was angry to be awake, angry to be alive, angry at the truck that was parked up there the night prior because they were doing their business and interrupted with plans I had."

As she sat in her car crying, she got a text from a friend, a man named Keith who she knew from a local sports bar. He asked her if she wanted to climb the Manitou Incline, a popular hiking trail in the area.

Days earlier, she had put out a request on social media, asking for someone to climb the incline with her. She had been repeatedly turned down and told she couldn't do it.

But all it took was one person taking a chance on her.

Shortly after, a second person – someone who followed her on Instagram – offered to do the climb with her as well. The group met at the incline. Five and a half hours later, Horvath reached the top.

Mandy Horvath on the Manitou Incline
Mandy Horvath climbed the Manitou Incline, despite being a bilateral amputee.

That climb marked the beginning of a new passion.

"To be quite honest with you, I never imagined myself as a mountain climber," Horvath said.

But a climber she became, tackling Pike's Peak in the Rocky Mountains, then the stairs to the top of the Statue of Liberty, and, last month, Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania.

It took her six days to reach the summit. A few times, she questioned whether she could make it.

"There were several times where the mountain asked me why I was there," she said, "and I had to keep reminding myself that I do what I say I'm going to do."

Horvath dedicates each climb to charity, using her platform to raise awareness about their missions. She's worked with Terry Franz, the so-called "Kansas City Car Santa," and his charity, Cars 4 Heroes. She also has climbed for the Battle Buddy Foundation and Operation Ward 57.

For her most recent climb, she worked with Conservation Through Tourism, which encourages travelers to visit vulnerable areas and spend money to help them fund the protection of wildlife.

"I wasn't ever in it for the attention," she said. "I was in it to help people."

After conquering Kilimanjaro, Horvath said, she plans to rest for a while, but already is thinking about what her next climb might be. She'll also be featured in the upcoming documentary, "Life Climb," chronicling her journey to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro. The documentary team currently is working to find a distributor to buy the rights to the film.

Whatever her future holds, Horvath said she's grateful to have a new passion.

"For several years, I really thought that it was the end of my life," she said. "And I really wish I could go back and tell that girl to just hold on a little bit longer. Because what I didn't know is I was being reborn. I was given a different purpose. And I'm OK with that today."

To follow Horvath's journey, visit her Instagram page, @LifeproofBionicWoman.

If you or someone you know may be considering suicide, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or the Crisis Text Line by texting home to 741741.

This story was originally published by Callie Counsellor at KSHB.