The Dorchester family that was the most extensively wounded in the Marathon bombings gave the fullest account to date Thursday of their pain and their halting progress and expressed their gratitude to the strangers and medical workers who have helped them.
Jane Richard, whose 8-year-old brother died in the blast, underwent an eleventh surgery on her wounded leg this week, paving the way toward an eventual prosthesis, according to the statement.
On Wednesday night, surgeons at Boston Children’s Hospital closed the wound created when the bomb severed the 7-year-old’s left leg below the knee 23 days earlier, according to the family’s statement. Doctors had been concerned they might have to amputate her leg above the knee, but concluded this week that they did not.
“One of the things we have learned through all of this is to not get too high or too low,” the family’s statement said. “If things go well, Jane could be ready to transition to the rehabilitation stage of her recovery in the next few weeks.”
The development in Jane’s recovery comes as something of a milestone for family members, all but one of whom were injured in the blast as they cheered arriving runners. Martin died at the scene.
The children’s mother, Denise, received a shrapnel injury to her eye. Although she has not recovered her sight, doctors are pleased with how she is healing from surgeries, according to the statement. The father, Bill, is recovering from shrapnel wounds to his legs and significant damage to his hearing. The couple’s other son, Henry, was uninjured.
Although Bill and Denise Richard were released from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center a week after the bombing, the family has remained in the Longwood Medical Area to be close to their daughter. The doctors’ decision that Jane would be able to keep her knee comes as much-needed good news to a family that has become the public face of the tragedy that killed three and injured more than 260 people.
“The family has shared this because it is progress,” said Larry Marchese, the family’s spokesman and a college roommate of Bill Richard’s. “They greet this with guarded optimism. The Richards will breathe easier when they can bring Jane home.”
Jane, who remains in intensive care, was in a medically induced coma for two weeks to facilitate recovery. Not only has she had to fight off infections and other complications, but when she was awakened, she had “difficult questions that needed to be answered,” said the statement, which can be seen at www.RichardFamilyBoston.tumblr.com. “There are not words to describe how hard sharing this heartbreaking news was on all of us.”
Doctors were monitoring Jane’s leg over the past three weeks to ensure that the blood flow to her lower leg was strong enough, said a source close to the family. Jane is expected to be fitted with a prosthesis in coming weeks.
That doctors were able to preserve her knee “is major,” said Dr. David Crandell, medical director of the amputee program at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, who is not involved in her case. “If you do not have to go above the knee, you have greater ease of mobility and greater control and independence. She should be able to do pretty much everything she did before.”
The family thanked first responders who assisted several family members, particularly those who helped Jane, “because they saved her life.”
Matt Patterson, an off-duty Lynn fireman and paramedic enjoying oysters and Irish coffee at Abe & Louie’s Steak House when the blasts went off, had been identified earlier as the first to get to Jane’s side. Patterson, 30, grabbed a belt from another man and tied a tourniquet to her leg. Mike Chase, soccer coach at Danvers High School, leapt to help him, and together the two men rushed Jane to a nearby ambulance, with Bill and Henry Richard behind them.
At the same time, Dan Marshall, who had been sipping a beer with his friend Chase at the Atlantic Fish Co., rushed to the side of a boy lying on Boylston Street, whom he would later learn was Martin Richard. Marshall said he shouted at Denise Richard, who was kneeling alone over her injured son, asking for the boy’s name. Taking his own belt, he tied a tourniquet around Martin’s injured arm and gave his shirt to Denise to hold to her bleeding face.
Marshall, who was with Martin when he died, said Thursday he has been replaying events over in his head and has had difficulty sleeping. Over the past weekend, he and the several others who were together that day returned to the Atlantic Fish Co. and talked the experience through. “I guess you could call it therapy,” said Marshall, the custodian at Danvers High School. “We all left feeling a little better.’’
The Richard family also paid tribute to the several officers who stood guard over Martin’s body on Boylston Street after the bombing. The bodies of Martin and Lu Lingzhi remained on the site until about 2 a.m. the following day while officers gathered evidence and preserved the crime scene, said a police official.
The officers covered the bodies with tablecloths from restaurants. Bill Richard was distraught at the thought of leaving his son there, but officers offered to watch over him, said the source. “Those officers will never know how comforting that was in our very darkest hour,” the family said.
Boston police Captain Frank Armstrong was one of those who stood vigil.
“There were several officers who stood watch over Lingzhi and Martin throughout the night to ensure they were never left alone out of respect for both them and their grieving families,” Armstrong said. “If these actions brought any measure of solace to the Lu and Richards family, we were honored by their sacrifice to have done so.”
The family said another update will be made when Jane leaves the hospital for rehab. They asked supporters “for your continued patience as we work through something for which there is no roadmap, and there are no instructions.”