Former Wall Street analyst became an ER doctor after sister’s horrific subway accident

Debbie Yi was working as an investment analyst on Wall Street when she experienced two horrific events that would alter the course of her life forever.

In 2001, Debbie had recently graduated from Brown University with a degree in economics and moved to New York City to start her job as a Goldman Sachs analyst.

On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, she said her managing director called his team into his office where they could see the burning World Trade Center.

“We all started running,” Debbie said. “I remember I went outside… it was just raining smoke and soot, and it was so sad because I could see children’s photographs that were burned.”

After a panic-filled few hours, Debbie reunited with her middle sister, Christine Yi, with whom she was sharing an apartment in the city.

“After 9/11. I was a very different person,” Debbie said.

Watch the full story on “20/20: The Good Doctors: Brilliance and Bravery,” Wednesday, Sept. 13, at 10 p.m. on ABC.

Debbie said she left Goldman and started a job at a consulting firm working on projects to rebuild downtown Manhattan. But 18 months later, Debbie said she was vacationing in Mexico when she got a call from her eldest sister Joy in the middle of the night, telling her to come home.

“She said that my sister Christine was in a terrible accident,” Debbie said. “She was hit by a train—a subway train in New York … [it was] the longest flights of my life.”

It wasn’t until after Debbie arrived at Bellevue Hospital in New York that she learned the specifics of what had happened: her sister had tripped on the subway platform and landed in between two subway cars.

“The train began to drive away and she was still on the track,” Debbie said.

Christine lay on the tracks for hours while rescuers used a crane to lift the train and pull her out. Her right leg was completely shattered. By the time she got to the hospital, she was in a dire situation.

“Her heart stopped,” Debbie said. “She stopped breathing and a surgical intern… provided breaths to her and brought her back to life.”

Dr. Toni McLaurin was the orthopedic surgeon on call when Christine arrived. The type of injury Christine was suffering from was known as a “mangled extremity,” she said.

“It really tells you not only is the bone broken but also damage to the skin as well as to the muscles,” McLaurin said.

Fortunately, Christine said she doesn’t remember much from the day of the accident.


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