Boston Marathon Amputee Describes ‘Life-Altering Experience’

By Enjoli Francis

Apr 25, 2013 7:43pm

When the bombings went off at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, Heather Abbott was right there on Boylston Street, in the middle of a fun, annual day trip of watching the Red Sox and hanging out with friends.

Abbott, 38, of Newport, R.I., and two friends were waiting to enter Forum restaurant when the first explosion occurred. The second blast blew her and several others into the bar. As people raced to the bar’s exit in the back, she found that she could not get up.

“I felt like my foot was on fire,” she said today during a news conference at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. “I couldn’t stand up. I didn’t know what I was going to do. I was just screaming: ‘Someone, please help me.’ And I was thinking, ‘Who is going to help me? Everyone is running for their lives.’”

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Image credit: Steven Senne/AP Photo

Abbott said two men and two women helped her into an ambulance and she was taken to the hospital. One of the strangers who helped saved her was former New England Patriot linebacker Matt Chatham.

“I’m holding a woman who’s, you know, nearly lost her leg and is losing an incredible amount of blood,” Chatham said in a separate interview. “We just did the best we could in that, that moment. And I, I can still see her face.”

Once at the hospital, Abbott learned that her left foot was badly mangled. It would never fully heal or be functional. After talking to doctors, she decided to have her leg amputated below the knee.

Abbott said today that while the decision to amputate had been a difficult one, it was what she needed to do.

“When I weighed the pros and cons, I think this was the best option for me,” she said. “Although, certainly, it’s not something I would wish on myself — or anyone else, you know — it’s really not as bad as I thought it would, could have been.”

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Today, she credited friends, family and even strangers for helping her to maintain a positive outlook on life.

“If someone had told me I would have half a leg basically at the age of 38 before this happened, I think I would never have believed it,” she said. “I think I would have been devastated and I really haven’t had a moment yet of being devastated because I’ve gotten so much support. … It is a life-altering experience.”

Dr. Eric Bluman, an orthopedic surgeon treating Abbott, said that she would soon begin physical therapy and eventually be fitted for a permanent prosthesis.

RELATED: Prosthetic Breakthroughs Will Benefit Boston Bombing Amputees

Abbott, who enjoys running and Zumba, said doctors had assured her that she’d be able to try yoga paddle boarding with friends next year. In two weeks, she will get her cast off and the self-described fashionista said she is already counting the days until she has her new prosthetic limb, adding that she plans to walk in heels again.

“I really think I’m going to be able to live my life in a normal way eventually when I get that permanent prosthesis,” Abbott said.

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