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Amputation best choice, Boston victim says

Heather Abbott said having the surgery was the best way to get back to her life.

Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff

Heather Abbott said having the surgery was the best way to get back to her life.

It was a difficult decision, but Heather Abbott said that having her lower leg amputated a week after the Marathon bombing was her best option for resuming her active life, every­thing from aerobics to zumba.

Abbott’s left foot and ankle were shattered by the second bomb as she stood outside the Forum bar and restaurant. Emergency personnel rushed her to Brigham and Women’s Hospital, where surgeons initially saved her limb by grafting blood vessels from her healthy leg.

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But over the next few days, Abbott said, it became clear that “the best case scenario seems to be going with the ampu­tation,’’ she told reporters during a press conference at the hospital Thursday. “If I had kept it, it was very badly mangled and never would be fully healed, and it would be shorter than the other leg.’’

While a prosthesis “is something I will have to get used to,’’ she said, it will give her a better chance of resuming running, yoga, and other aspects of her active lifestyle.

Abbott is one of 16 bombing victims known to have had legs or feet amputated.

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“If someone told me I would have half a leg at age 38, I would have been devastated,’’ said the Newport, R.I., resident, who works in human resources for Raytheon. She said she tried not to think about the amputation as she was wheeled into the operating room Monday, but “it’s really not as bad as I thought it could have been.’’

Before the surgery, Abbott met with several people who had lost their lower legs and now wear prostheses. They told her they regretted not having amputations sooner after their injuries, because they endured years of pain in trying to salvage their limbs.

“That helped me with my decision,’’ she said. “They seem like very positive people. . . . I aspire to be like them.’’

Abbott’s nurse wheeled her into the press conference on a reclining chair. A blanket covered her legs. She said that ­despite the bombing, some things don’t change. “I am still happy,’’ she said. She said she has pain and a “strange feeling’’ where her leg was amputated.

Abbott rode the train with six friends from Rhode Island to attend the Red Sox game and then watch the Marathon, a ­tradition for the group. When the first bomb went off, she said she immediately thought of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. The second bomb blew her into the bar.

“I felt like my foot was on fire,’’ she said.

Someone help me, she ­recalled screaming. Several people carried her to an ambulance.

“It was very scary,’’ she said. “I didn’t know what was going to happen to me.’’

Liz Kowalczyk can be reached at
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