On April 15, 2013, what is referred to as Marathon Monday in Boston, Heather Abbott of Newport, RI set out on an annual tradition with six friends. They would attend the Red Sox game, followed by a walk over to the Boston Marathon finish line to watch the runners and gather at the Forum restaurant. However, Heather would never have dreamed this day would change her life forever. Heather was struck by shrapnel from the second of the two bombs that day, which severely injured her left foot. Strangers Matt Chatham, former New England Patriots lineman, and his wife, Erin, carried Abbott to safety away from the direction of the bombs and saw her to an ambulance that brought her to Brigham and Women’s hospital.
After 3 surgeries in 4 days, Abbott was faced with the agonizing decision of whether to try to save her left foot or to allow doctors to amputate her left leg below the knee. With the help of other amputees and the support from hundreds of thousands around the country, Abbott made the difficult decision, at the age of 38, to live her remaining years as an amputee and use prosthetic legs.
Just four months following the bombing, she was living independently and returned to her job as a Human Resources Manager, on a part time basis. Within the first year following her amputation, she started participating in the activities she loves, including paddle boarding, running and wearing high heels. Abbott currently has four different prosthetic legs and has not let this horrific act of terrorism slow her down. She has become certified as a Peer Counselor by the National Amputee Coalition and is helping other amputees adjust to their “new normal,” as an example of hope and determination.
AAA: What inspires you?
Heather: There are so many different things that have inspired me on my road to recovery that it’s difficult to just name a few. Some that are at the top of the list include the others who lost limbs at the Boston Marathon bombing. So many are struggling with on-going surgeries, other complications or loss/damage of more than one limb. Watching them progress and stay positive keeps me on track. The help and support I’ve received from others all over the country has helped enormously too. It’s hard to want to stay on your couch and feel bad for yourself when the whole nation is cheering you on and wanting to see you succeed.
AAA: How do you keep moving forward?
Heather: I think my determination to live a life as close as close to the one I had before I lost my leg keeps me moving in a forward facing direction. Other amputees have told me that losing their limb didn’t slow them down and I’m determined to join them in that statement.
AAA: Some people are just positive by nature, would you describe yourself that way? Heather: Sort of. I find myself trying to look on the bright side of most situations. I always try to keep in mind that sometimes there are circumstances that I just can’t control. Once I’ve accepted that, it’s easier to move forward.
AAA: What are your thoughts on attitude?
Heather: Having a positive attitude is instrumental to being successful, in my opinion. Reminding myself not to dwell on the negative and to focus on reaching my goals has been a big factor in my recovery.