PAY IT FORWARD: After losing her leg in the tragic bombing at the Boston Marathon, Heather Abbott has dedicated her life to helping other amputees through the same transition she faced. 
Photos: Claudia Jacobo

As I look back five years to that fateful Marathon Monday in Boston, I am struck not only by how much my life has changed since losing my leg that day, but by how appreciative I actually am of some of those changes.


Finding a new mission

Of course, I would give anything to have my leg back, but the journey from then to now has gifted me with a sense of community and “paying it forward” that I never knew before.

Good can overcome evil, and each of us can triumph over tragedy. For me, the generosity that flowed from countless thousands in the days, weeks and months after the bombing, profoundly reshaped my life. The Heather Abbott Foundation (HAF) exists today to carry on that generosity to others. In its short existence, HAF has already provided 19 prostheses to adults and children designed to help them “live their lives” again.

I am also now a Certified Amputee Visitor. Hospitals invite me to meet with new amputees, especially women. As you might imagine, the concerns of female amputees are often far different from those of men.

Sharing insider tricks  

As a new amputee, I wondered if a prosthesis would keep me from wearing my favorite clothes and shoes. Could I ever wear high heels again?  What can seem trivial on the surface to some can be profoundly important to a female amputee in those early days, and with relatively few women amputees in the United States, adjusting to one’s “new normal” can be all the more isolating.

Good can overcome evil, and each of us can triumph over tragedy.

Showing fellow amputee women “the ropes” is central to my purpose in life now. Sharing “tricks of the trade” — like my favorite shoe horn, or stylish shoes that are comfy and easy to get on a prosthetic foot or tips on how to wear skinny jeans so it looks like you have two calves — are insider pearls I treasure. These are the little things that make all the difference to women like me.

Leaning on each other, the few that we are, is critical to our emotional health moving forward, but if it can also lead to more stylish wardrobes in the process, all the better.

Five years later, my new life is filled with countless moments of gratitude. Chief among them is the privilege to belong to such a special group of women, and to be able to help them and others live their lives again.