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Boston bombing victim shuts out anger, eyes recovery

Source: Reuters - Thu, 25 Apr 2013 23:10 GMT
Author: Reuters
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* "I have not been angry"

* "Don't even know how to pronounce" suspects' names

By Svea Herbst-Bayliss

BOSTON, April 25 (Reuters) - Bleeding heavily after being hurled into the entryway of a restaurant seconds after twin blasts shattered a festive mood at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, Heather Abbott had no doubt about what had just happened.

"I thought, 'Of course this is a terror attack," said the 38-year-old from Newport, Rhode Island, who recalled thinking about the Sept. 11, 2001, hijacked plane attacks as she lay screaming for help.

The Boston bombing on April 15 killed three people and injured 264 others.

For days, doctors at Brigham and Women's Hospital, who rushed Abbott to an operating room less than an hour after the blasts, had hoped to save her badly mangled left foot.

But it soon became clear that Abbott would have a better chance of resuming her normal life filled with aerobics classes if she went into surgery again. So exactly one week after the Boston bombing and as a moment of silence was observed for its victims, doctors added another casualty to the list - Abbott's left leg.

In the days since the attack, emotions have run high in Boston, especially after police shut down the city and surrounding suburbs on Friday as they searched for the surviving suspect, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

He had escaped a shootout with police in which the other suspect, his older brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, was killed.

But at the hospital, only a few blocks from another hospital where Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is being treated, Abbott, who works in human resources at Raytheon Corp, has tried to shut out the news and focus only on her own road to recovery.

"I haven't thought much about them at all. I don't even know how to pronounce their names," Abbott said about the ethnic Chechen brothers accused of the bombing.

At a packed news conference, Abbott, dressed in a teal-colored T-shirt and flanked by her surgeon and her family, displayed a firm resolve.

"I have not been angry," she said, noting that among her group of seven friends who were with her that day but escaped injuries, she was probably the only one not filled with rage. "Eventually I might get angry," she acknowledged, but not yet.

'FELT LIKE MY FOOT WAS ON FIRE'

Like many of the roughly 50 people who remain at area hospitals with limb amputations and shrapnel wounds since the attack, Abbott has been fighting to get back on her feet.

The pressure-cooker bombs, which were left on the ground near the finish line of the race, caused severe lower body injuries in victims.

"I walked 10 feet (3 metres) today on my walker," she said, sitting in a wheelchair with her legs covered by a sheet.

When doctors realized her left foot would likely never heal, that one leg would be shorter than the other and that she faced a life of excruciating pain, Abbott, together with her surgeons, opted for a below-the-knee amputation.

With a prosthesis she will get in six weeks, she will resume a full and athletic life, surgeon Eric Bluman said.

Overwhelmed by support from family, friends and complete strangers, Abbott said she had been visited by first lady Michelle Obama and heard from Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee. She was also visited by federal and local police, although she said she was not much help to their investigation.

What she does remember was the second blast throwing her into the Forum restaurant on Boylston Street.

"I felt like my foot was on fire and I was screaming for someone to please help me," she said. Shortly afterward, she was carried to an ambulance and out of the crowd and smoke. (Editing by Scott Malone and Peter Cooney)

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