Heather Abbott: Boston Bombing Victim Chooses Amputation


When we try to fathom the injuries victims sustained from the Boston bombing, it may be hard for any of us outside the incident to imagine staying as positive as victim Heather Abbott has. 

Abbott, 38, of Providence, Rhode Island, ventures down to Boston with friends every Patriot’s Day. The group has a tradition of attending the Red Sox game and going out for drinks. Abbott and friends had just arrived at Forum on Boylston Street when they heard the explosion near the finish line of the Boston Marathon. 

Abbott describes a frenzy as the explosion forced people from outside into the bar. She remembers people flooding toward the back of the bar desperate to escape. The reverberations from the explosion sent Abbott to the ground where she felt as if her foot was burning.

“I knew I couldn’t stand up,” she said at a press conference at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. 

Abbott made it to the hospital where it was determined that her foot was badly injured and would probably never recover to the way it was prior to the injury. As a result, Abbott has elected to have a below-the-knee amputation and a prosthetic to replace her foot and lower leg. She chose this because she believes she will be able to lead something closer to a normal life with the prosthetic. Her hobbies include running, Zumba, and aerobics. Although she won’t be able to continue all of those, she is looking forward to trying yoga paddle boarding. 

Abbott has remained incredibly optimistic throughout the aftermath of her injury. While many of us cannot fathom our lives being altered as the result of a terrorist attack, she is not angry, and said at the press conference, “This situation I’m faced with, it’s not going to change. For me to dwell on the negative is kind of a waste of time for me.”

She is not interested in the political aspect either, reporting that she has not watched any news coverage and has given little thought to the suspected terrorists themselves, Russian nationals from Chechnya. 

Abbott is not the only victim of the bombing who has had to make difficult decisions about her health and future. There were more than 260 injured in the bombing. The New York Times reported that there were sixteen victims who had amputations or whose limbs were blown off in the explosion. 

Aside from the psychological and emotional impacts of the bombing and the injuries that result, many victims are confronting the limits of their health insurance. Although funds for the amputees have poured in from all over, it is still difficult to finance prosthetics that can cost as low as $5,000 and as high as $50K. Furthermore, prosthetics do not last indefinitely; they need to be replaced every few years. Dan Iganaszewski, of the Amputee Coalition of America, says that most insurance companies place a cap on prosthetics between $2,500-$5,000 per year. Aside from the actual prosthetic limbs, victims also require extensive rehabilitation and physical therapy along with possible home renovations to make mobility easier. 

Obstacles for victims like Heather Abbott are abound for the future. However, that does not discourage her or her doctor. When she told her doctor she hoped to try yoga paddle boarding, he said that she probably won’t get to it this summer, but definitely next summer. The prognosis is as good as it can be. 

Abbott’s heroism is commendable and shows all of us how important it is to take care of our own when disaster strikes. Because of the support of donors, first responders, strangers, doctors, family, and friends, the victims of the Boston Bombing have hope for the future.