Marathon survivor donates prosthetic­s

- Trisha Thadani

When Heather Abbott lost her leg because of injuries in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings, she promised herself she would do whatever it took to wear high heels again.

Not only were her heels a staple of her wardrobe, they were a mark of confidence and womanhood that she wasn’t going to let the bombing take away from her. It had already taken enough.

And so, with a custom-made and carefully detailed prosthetic leg, she was back in high heels only six months later.

Out of gratitude for the donations she received after the bombing, 40-year-old Abbott created the Heather Abbott Foundation to help fund the pricey prosthetic­s for other amputees.

“Not having to give up anything and going back to my life the way it was before was extremely important to me,” she said. “I knew it was something that I need to help me heal.”

The foundation’s first donation went out Monday to Hillary Cohen, 26, a Massachuse­tts woman who developed a tumor on her right heel at age 13. As she grew older, the tumor grew bigger, making simple activities such as walking and sleeping excruciati­ng.

At 24, she decided enough was enough and had her right foot amputated.

Abbott said Cohen was so supportive of her foundation when they met that she knew she would be the first one to receive the donation of a prosthetic leg made by Next Step Bionics & Prosthetic­s, located outside Boston.

“It’s better than my other leg,” Cohen said at the Next Step office, brimming with emotion and donning her new prosthetic leg and 3-inch, bedazzled wedges.

This prosthetic leg, created by Next Step, not only matches Cohen’s skin color but is detailed right down to the veins and toenails.

Arthur Graham, a prosthetis­t for Next Step, said the prosthetic leg such as the one that Cohen received is “a work of art.”

First, the prosthetic is fitted and cast to the amputee’s leg. Then it is sent to an artist in England who mixes the color for the skin, adds the silicon covering, paints on freckles and adds shading for muscles.

A prosthetic leg like the one Cohen received would typically cost around $70,000.

Next Step cut the price in half for the Abbott Foundation so that the foundation could give the prosthetic to Cohen for free.

Although it may seem menial, Cohen said, she feels as if she missed out on something when she was younger by not being able to wear heels — that mark of wobbly adolescenc­e and coming of age.

“I’ve never got to experience that part of becoming an adolescent,” she said. “It was mildly upsetting that (heels) were not a part of my life.”

Now, thanks to Abbott, she has some shoe shopping to do.

 ?? TRISHA THADANI, USA TODAY ?? Prosthetis­t Arthur Graham compares Hillary Cohen’s old prosthetic leg to the new one on her right side.
TRISHA THADANI, USA TODAY Prosthetis­t Arthur Graham compares Hillary Cohen’s old prosthetic leg to the new one on her right side.

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