Life after Boston Marathon bombing for one victim

Jamie Glenn/Daily Mining Gazette Heather Abbott visited Michigan Technological University’s campus Wednesday, where she shared aspects of her recovery from the Boston Marathon bombing.

HOUGHTON — The Center for Diversity and Inclusion welcomed Heather Abbott, to the Rozsa Center for the Performing Arts to speak on Wednesday. Abbott is one of 264 people injured in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing. She shared her journey to recovery.

A regular participant in the marathon, Abbott found herself lost when she discovered that her left leg was going to never be the same. She described her recovery process taking place in three steps.

The first was accepting that she needed to have an operation.

“I decided to focus on what I had to do to get on with my life and that was really the first step in my recovery process,” she said. “Recognizing that I needed to change, and making the decision to move forward wasn’t easy.

“I decided If I was going to be an amputee I needed to know what It was going to be like.”

Abbott was one of 17 individuals who lost one or more limbs as a result of the explosions. She has gotten to know them since the attack, and feels she has grown close to them.

“Those 17 amputees have become family for me,” she said. “We all went through this very unique experience together. We were able to rely on each other for support, not only by learning about prosthetics. (We needed to) learn how to deal with the media and interviews on top of learning how to adjust to this new normal.”

Abbott learned fairly quickly in recovery that she would need to accept mental and financial support from others. It was something that was not easy for her to do. The state of Massachusetts created the Boston One Fund as an avenue of support for those affected.

Erin Chatham, wife of retired New England Patriots’ linebacker Matt Chatham, was one of Abbott’s friends who helped her understand that there was plenty to live for.

“I began to realize that I wasn’t going to be able to do this alone,” she said. “I was going to need a lot of support, which wasn’t something that I was used to.

“I was used to being pretty independent.”

Abbott said that the second stage in her recovery process was recognizing that she needed support.

“(I needed) not only emotional support, but also financial support,” she said. “As it turns out, these prosthetic legs are pretty expensive.

“I certainly didn’t have that kind of money to spend, so my family and friends started to have fundraisers.”

Abbott hit a low point in her push to recovery. She found motivation in having an opportunity to meet pop superstar Beyonce after a show in the Boston area.

“I practiced every single day to wear that leg so that I could go to Beyonce’s concert, standing,” she said. “I did. I got to meet her on my own two feet. I got to tell her that If it wasn’t for her, who knows if I’d ever be walking.

“It was a really great way to have a goal to walk.”

Since finding the motivation she needed to learn how to walk again, Abbott has turned her focus to helping others in need of prosthetics, which, became her third step to recovery.

“The biggest part of my recovery was having the opportunity to pay it forward, to be able to help other people (in) the way that I was helped,” she said. “My life has changed quite a bit since then.”

In closing, Abbott took an opportunity to share the importance of overcoming obstacles and helping others.

“Overcoming adversity is something that we have to deal with from time to time, hopefully not something like losing a limb in a Boston Marathon bombing,” she said. “We all need tools to get through those types of things.”