In 2013, 40-year-old Heather Abbott lost a leg in the Boston Marathon bombing. In the days and weeks that followed, thousands of people donated money to help all those who were injured that day. For Heather, that generosity made it possible for her to have two prostheses.
Photo via Heather Abbott Foundation via Facebook
At only 38 year old, Heather was a full-time human resources manager, when the terrorist attack occurred. On that fateful Marathon Monday in April of 2013 two bombs exploded in the crowd of well-wishers and one of those injured in the blast was Heather.
“So I was helping my company to attract and attain women, minorities, veterans, and people with disabilities,” Heather told SDPB, a radio station in Sioux Falls, “Never, ever did I think I would become one of those people with a disability,” she stated.
Heather was impacted by the second blast and literally blown into the entrance of a nearby restaurant. Former New England Patriots lineman Matt Chatham and his wife, Erin, saw Heather in the bloody aftermath and carried her to safety.
After three surgeries in four days, Heather was faced with an agonizing decision – face a lifetime of agonizing pain from her injuries or allow doctors to amputate her left leg below the knee. With the counsel and comfort of amputees who came to visit her in the hospital, and after much soul-searching, Heather made the difficult decision to live as an amputee.
Today, Heather credits a device which has allowed her to wear high heels and return to her normal life again as key to her emotional healing.
In an effort to give back, Heather has formed the Heather Abbott Foundation because, as her website states, “most amputees aren’t so fortunate. Many are forced to give up the life they once knew because they can’t afford the prosthesis they need to get their life back.“
While most insurance companies cover the costs of a single, basic prosthetic device, additional specialized prosthetic devices can range from $20,000-$100,000 each, an amount which is simply out of reach for many.
This week, Heather’s foundation donated a $70,000 prosthetic leg to it’s first recipient, a 26-year-old woman in who had her right leg amputated below the knee two years ago following complications from a tumor that began in her foot when she was 13.
“I really wanted the first donation to be her. I knew she really wanted to wear high heels and I knew how she felt,” Abbott said.
The recipient, Hillary Cohen was ecstatic and emotionally said that she never got to experience wearing heels, even at her prom, a huge part of becoming an adolescent. She added that receiving the prosthetic-leg made by Next Step Bionics & Prosthetics from Heather means she will have a whole new wardrobe.
“This is the first time I am looking at myself with two normal-looking legs. I’ve never had that before,” Cohen said .
Arthur Graham, a prosthetist for Next Step, told USA Today that the prosthetic leg such as the one that Cohen received is “a work of art.”
First the prosthetic is fitted and cast to the amputee’s leg, and then it is sent to an artist in England who mixes the color for the skin, adds the silicon covering, paints on the freckles and adds shading for muscles.
“It feels so good to help someone out and know we’ll be able to help more amputees in the future,” Heather told the press.
More about the Heather Abbott Foundation here.
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