Tonight, hours after Liza Dye has her eighth surgery since being struck by a B train on February 13, Abbi Crutchfield will host a benefit at the Jersey City Comedy Festival, in hopes of adding to the $63,000 that have already been raised for Dye . Sunday, from her hospital bed at Bellevue, the 25-year-old stand-up from South Carolina told us her story in detail for the first time.
It was Fashion Week and I had crashed at my friend Billy’s place. (I’m technically homeless. I’ve had like three apartments here. I just can’t afford it.) I got up, left my friend Billy’s, walked to the train station right around the corner from him, Broadway-Lafayette. And it was that terrible blizzard that morning. I got to the train station, and I just remember feeling really lightheaded.
I remember standing there on the platform thinking to myself, “Oh. I need to sit down because I’m about to faint.” So I remember trying to get to the bench and the next thing I remember is waking up and having a vivid view of my leg wedged between the track and the train wheel, literally underneath the train. And I’m in the track, my upper part of body is under the platform, and I’m kind of face-down. It’s weird, how I was positioned. And I was like, “How did this happen?”
What I was seeing definitely wasn’t connecting with my brain that well, like I was looking at my leg and there wasn’t much of it there, it was pretty much just bone.
And I just heard this lady’s voice ask me, “Are you alive?” and I was like, “Yeah.” And then she was like, “That girl under the train is alive.” She started telling people, “Ya’ll, someone get some help, that girl, she’s still alive. Call an ambulance!”
After I heard her getting help I was like, “Oh, okay, so I need to make noise and let people know that I’m alive.” And I was just like, “Help! I’m alive! Someone please help me!” That’s when I saw people on the other side of the platform looking and starting to Instagram and stuff.
After what felt like forever — I’m sure was maybe five to 10 more minutes — firemen came. They used what looked like a little baby jaws of life, and cranked the train up off of my leg, which was like all of the pain combined that I’ve felt here [in the hospital] all compressed into that moment. I think that was when my body came out of shock and I was like, Oh! I got hit by a train!
When they were pulling the train off of me, I was totally conscious and, at one point, you know when you’re on the train, and the train stops for a while, and the people are like [grumbling sounds]? I could hear people doing that in the train cars. And so I was shouting, “I’m sorry I fucked up your dayyy! I’m sorry I made you late for work!” and people were cracking up.
Even when the firemen came down I was still joking around with them; I was like, “Do you think my leg is coming with me? It doesn’t look too good, does it?” And they were like, “I don’t know.”
Everybody who was around, either in the train car or on the platform, they knew what to do and everybody was like, “Stay conscious. Don’t go to sleep. Keep talking. Stay still. We’re getting help.” I was like, “Man, all these people are really good at this. They know what to do!”
It was surprisingly calm, and it was just like, God and angels keeping me calm and just saving my life. I remember being carried out on a stretcher, which seemed like a really long trip. I feel like we went up so many stairs. And then I came here and I’ve been inside this building for 45 days.The mood that was set when I first got here was like, “You have two options. You can have four to six weeks of really painful surgeries, or you can get your leg amputated.” That was pretty much what the deal seemed to be when I first got here.
I don’t know what I would do if my mom wasn’t by my side because I definitely had some really bad, weak, weak weak weak pain moments where like, “Alright, if you guys can’t tell me how long this pain is going to last, then let’s amputate it,” because I physically and mentally cannot deal with this. And then it was explained to me that amputation could be just as painful as trying to save it, because sometimes your nerves can think that your leg is still there, and you’re working with a prosthetic. And so we were like well, the train stopped in just enough time, and God left it on for a reason, so let’s try to save it. And they did.
When the New York Post headline said “Texting Comedian Jumps in Front of Train,” I was infuriated. And so The New York Daily News said that I was texting, and then Gothamist said that I was texting, and then it just kept going and I was like, “I fainted. It was a blizzard that morning — my hands were in my pockets.”
Some articles that I’ve read made it seem like I was in some intense game of Flappy Bird and I just like ppppft! flopped in front of the train.
A lot of the [surgeries] have been what they call washouts. Which is just a literal cleaning of the wound and leg. It sounds so gross — in the beginning it was literally just getting off any of the skin that was hanging or was not going to be able to be saved. And obviously I had to be put under because that’s excruciatingly painful.
The first blood transfusion I had to have — I think I’ve had to have two — the doctor came in, this was maybe my third or fourth day here, and [I was] totally medicated up. It was before my mom was able to be here; some friends were trying to be here as much as possible but I was pretty much alone. And this doctor came in and was like, “You have to have a blood transfusion,” and I flipped. “I don’t want to have that! I don’t need that! What is that? How much is that going to cost?” I was so aware of the fact that these things were piling up already.
I told him, “I don’t have insurance, I don’t want to leave this hospital with a $2.5 million bill.” When I told him that, he was like, “I totally get it and I’m really sorry and I understand but you really need this blood. You lost a lot.”
[Sometimes the doctors] will be like, “Alright, you’re done. No more surgeries.” And then we’ll do a bandage change and they’ll be like, “Alright we’ve gotta have another surgery.” So we’ve accepted the fact that the leg makes the decisions. That’s our motto now, “The leg makes the decisions.” We’re gonna just let the leg take control and let us know what’s going to happen.
I have no idea how I’m going to pay for any of this.
I’ve always just been this 20-something-year-old without insurance, like millions of other people, like Obama’s constantly preaching about young people are not invincible. I’ve been very aware that I have no insurance.
I feel like everybody’s just been rooting for me. It’s just incredible, I still can’t believe it.
When the pain medicine isn’t helping or when I come out of OR or even when we get news like, “You need to have another skin graft, the skin didn’t take,” I have something to focus on. It’s everybody: it’s the comedy community, it’s that website, it’s everybody that’s donated, it’s everybody that’s tweeting me and reached out to me and, and like all of these strangers — it’s amazing.
I don’t know Zach Braff [who donated $9,990] at all, never met him. I’ve actually never even seen Scrubs.And there’s the rumor about Louie C.K. No one’s sure if it’s him or not but it was a pretty large sum — $8,000. It just said “Louis,” it didn’t say his whole stage name, and everyone was like, “That’s Louie. Louie donated to you.” And I’m like, “Whaaat?” I’m pretty sure it was him.
I would love to try and start walking. I definitely want to try and do a show or two before I go back to South Carolina. I’ve been writing. I have so much new material. It’s all about this. I’ll be back. I’m just going to go to South Carolina and chill out for a while. My mom and I are going to hang out. Do a bunch of drugs. Kill some people. Pick up some prostitutes. Probably run a meth lab.
As told to Jenna Marotta. This interview has been condensed for length and clarity.
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