These victims did nothing wrong. On April 15, 2013 they woke up and made a decision to either run or be part of the revelry of the traditional race. Unfortunately, that fateful decision put them in the wrong place at the worst possible time. In a split second, the course of their lives irrevocably changed.
The experience of being maimed through the actions of another is not unique to the Boston Marathon bombing victims. In fact, scores of other citizens suffered a similar fate on that date. Drive by shootings, car accidents, work injuries and a myriad of other accidents occur constantly, rendering innocent people without a limb. Like the Boston Marathon victims, these new amputees did nothing to invite their injuries except making a decision which put them in the wrong place at the worst time. The 400+ other amputations which occurred on April 15, 2013 were the result of less than patriotic methods. These new amputees, and the hundreds each day which enter our limb loss community, are primarily ignored by the news media and society as a whole.
During the next week the news media will regal the public with stories of fortitude and survival. Advances in prosthetic technology will be highlighted as many of the victims from last year will take to the marathon course this year. Their resiliency and strength will become the feel good story du jour.
While their victory marathon is remarkable and is certainly a reason to celebrate, the media is not providing the entire story. The Boston Marathon amputees, the selected 16 individuals whom the country has decided to follow and support, have been the beneficiaries of unprecedented prosthetic, physical therapy and emotional supports. The vast majority of amputees in this country will never receive the services or prosthetics which have been flowered upon the marathon victims.
One year ago I received a message from a scared Mom living in Colorado. She was taking her child to school a few days earlier and, while standing on the sidewalk, was struck by a drunk driver. Her leg was severed at the scene. She was terrified, alone and unsure about how she could live the remainder of her life with this unwelcome (and undeserved) disability. She lost her leg protecting the life of her son, yet her heroic tale was never reported by the media. Her resources were limited and, with no community support forthcoming, she reached out to me- a stranger with a blog.
Unfortunately this story is far more common in the amputee community. Prosthetics, physical supports and emotional help are often hard fought to receive, if the individual has the fortitude to wage the battle with their insurance carrier. The typical amputee is not up and running a marathon within 12 months of their injury. It is not because they are lacking the motivation, the skill, or the desire. Rather, they are not afforded the cost-prohibited devices required to complete such a lofty achievement.
Comparing the Boston Marathon amputees to the average amputee in this country is simply perpetuating a fallacy. The Colorado mom, who was the victim of a crime and lost her leg protecting her child, hopes to be walking by the end of the summer. Injured at the same time as the Boston amputees, running is not even on her radar of dreams and goals. Instead, she is hoping that her internet fundraising campaign will provide enough money for her to finally make the co-payment required before she is fit with a basic walking knee. Her story is far more indicative of the journey of an amputee, yet the ending isn't nearly as Disneyesque.