The Heather Abbott Foundation

year 2, week 18:  this week i'm gonna... provide prostheses to amputees

 
 

On April 15, 2013, 38-year-old Heather Abbott set out on an annual tradition with her friends to attend the Red Sox home game and then watch runners cross the finish line of the Boston Marathon.

But when two bombs exploded that afternoon - one just a few feet from her - Heather’s life changed forever. After being literally blown through the entrance of a restaurant near the second blast, Heather awoke to find that her left foot had been destroyed.

Heather Abbott

Heather Abbott

Four days and three surgeries later, Heather faced an agonizing decision: endure a lifetime of severe pain from her injuries or allow doctors to amputate her left leg below the knee. With the counsel and comfort of amputees who visited her in the hospital and after much soul-searching, Heather made the difficult decision to live as an amputee.

A few months later, Heather was fitted with her first prosthetic leg, a painful, bulky device. Eventually, with practice and the support of family and friends, she learned to walk. But Heather’s basic, flat-footed prosthesis was preventing her from living the active lifestyle she was accustomed to.

“I didn’t want my life to have to change,” Heather recalls. But customized prostheses cost tens of thousands of dollars and are rarely covered by insurance.

Undeterred, Heather launched a gofundme campaign, and with the help of donations of countless strangers, she was able to purchase the customized prostheses she needed to live the life she once knew.

Heather with one of her "six legs" (photo credit: Natasha Dickenson)

Heather with one of her "six legs" (photo credit: Natasha Dickenson)

Today, Heather jokes about her “six legs,” and she is once again doing everything she loves to do, including paddle boarding, running, and even wearing high heels!

Inspired by the kindness and strength she has witnessed throughout her ordeal, Heather founded the Heather Abbott Foundation, an organization that helps give other amputees the chance to live full and active lives.


 
 

Founded in 2014 by a survivor of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, the Heather Abbott Foundation helps provide customized prostheses to those who have suffered limb loss through traumatic circumstances.

For most amputees, the steep price of a customized prosthetic device is an impossible hurdle to overcome. While most insurance companies will cover a portion of the cost for a basic device, they will not help with specialty prostheses. These devices—which allow amputees to run, swim, play sports, and more—range in price from $15,000 to more than $100,000.

By providing grants that allow amputees obtain custom prosthetics, the Heather Abbott Foundation helps those who have from suffered limb loss to thrive in their recovery and return to the life they love.


David Rotter, left, coaches Vidal Lopez before he walks with his prostheses (photo credit: Alyssa Pointer, Chicago Tribune)

David Rotter, left, coaches Vidal Lopez before he walks with his prostheses (photo credit: Alyssa Pointer, Chicago Tribune)

One of the most recent recipients of a grant from the Heather Abbott Foundation is Vidal Lopez.

In the summer of 2016, 18-year-old Vidal was a week away from starting college when a tractor trailer plowed into his car. Although doctors managed to save his life, Vidal’s injuries were extreme. In order to survive, he had to have both legs amputated above the knee.

Being told he would never walk again was devastating for the once active teen. Refusing to give up, his family found a prosthetist who encouraged Vidal and fitted him with mechanical legs. And by his 19th birthday that fall, Vidal started standing on his own and taking some steps using a walker.

Still, Vidal recalls, “I was very desperate and sad sometimes.”

His basic prostheses were very limiting, and he found himself primarily wheelchair-bound. When he did use the mechanical legs, he couldn’t walk normally or sit down. He knew that more advanced legs were available, but at a cost of about $70,000, they were out of reach for his family.

A grant from the Heather Abbott Foundation changed all that.

Heather, Vidal, and his prosthetist, David Rotter (photo credit: Amie Rowland)

Heather, Vidal, and his prosthetist, David Rotter (photo credit: Amie Rowland)

With the help of the foundation, Vidal got his new prostheses: state-of-the-art hydraulic legs with microprocessor knees. Although it normally takes patients at least several weeks to get used to such devices, Vidal surprised doctors by training himself to use them in just four days.

Vidal says it was the Heather Abbott Foundation that gave him hope.

“I think in a few weeks or months, I’m going to be the same guy that I used to be,” Vidal said. “I think that I’m going to run. I think I’m going to play soccer.”

Vidal also plans to continue with his plans to attend college this year and become an engineer.


Notes for this week:

  • April 15th marked the 4th anniversary of the Boston marathon bombings. Our thoughts go out to all those who were affected.
  • Our collective givetwig donation will contribute to the next grant allowing an amputee to obtain a custom prosthetic.
  • For more information regarding the Heather Abbott Foundation, please check out their website.
 

this week i'm gonna donate to the Heather Abbott Foundation.

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