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HEALING: Gina, Peter, and his girlfriend (from right to left) recovering at the Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital.
Photo courtesy of the DiMartino family
HEALING: Gina, Peter, and his girlfriend (from right to left) recovering at the Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital.

Rochester strong

Boston Bombings | The DiMartino family is one among many beginning a life forever altered by the Boston bombing

Issue: "No pray zone?," July 13, 2013

Gina DiMartino’s summer plans in Rochester, N.Y., include reading, sketching, visiting a local pool, and waiting for the severely damaged nerves in her right leg to regrow from her knee to her toes.

It’s not how she imagined the summer.

DiMartino, 31, also didn’t envision sharing a room in her parents’ home with her 28-year-old brother, Peter, while he waits for his nearly severed Achilles tendon to mend. Like hundreds of others injured in the Boston bombing in April, a spring trip brought a summer season of coping with the aftermath of terrorism.

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Nearly three months after two bombs at the Boston Marathon killed three people and injured at least 265, the long recovery continues. At least 15 survivors are coping with missing limbs. Others are healing from nerve damage, broken bones, and burns. Families are learning to care for them. Many—including uninjured bystanders—are confronting the trauma of a day seared into their memories.

For DiMartino, some days bring pain and frustration as she learns to manage an injured leg and a foot she may not feel for at least a year. But the Christian and worship team member at a local church says the experience has also brought an unexpected sense of clarity. “I know I’m right where God wants me to be,” she says. “And that’s a good feeling.”

The journey from terror on a Boston sidewalk to comfort in a Rochester living room hasn’t been easy. But DiMartino’s story is one example that offers Christ-centered hope for others facing a summer they didn’t expect. 

For DiMartino, confronting life changes began before the Boston bombings. In March, the Liberty University graduate (MBA) had just moved back to her parents’ home in Rochester, N.Y., after living and working in Kansas for several months. (DiMartino has worked for Starbucks for nine years.)

She wrestled with uncertainty about her future, and contemplated the next phase of her life. The time in Kansas didn’t bring answers. DiMartino returned to Rochester, played keyboards at Northridge Church, and prayed for guidance. 

She also prepared for a road trip: Her family planned to travel to Boston to watch her mother, Mona, run in the Boston Marathon.

The group included DiMartino, her parents, her brother, Peter, and her sister and brother-in-law from Asheville, N.C. Peter’s girlfriend flew up from Houston with her young son. The group enjoyed a weekend of visiting relatives and watching a Red Sox game in seats atop the Green Monster—the 37-foot, left field wall at Fenway Park. 

On Monday morning, DiMartino tracked her mother on an app that showed her location on the marathon route. By Monday afternoon, the family gathered at the finish line. The mood was festive. DiMartino’s father crossed the street to get a better angle for a photo. 

The next thing DiMartino remembers is a loud sound: “Everybody was kind of lifted up and floating backwards.” The blast muffled DiMartino’s hearing, but she could see blood pouring from her leg. A piece of shrapnel had sliced a 9-inch gash near the bend of her knee, severing a main artery and two main nerves. 

The blast also hit Peter, nearly severing his Achilles tendon and causing serious burns on his arms and back. Peter’s girlfriend suffered a severe leg injury, but her son escaped with a cut. 

With DiMartino’s father forced by police to stay across the street, and her mother nearly three-quarters of a mile away, her uninjured sister, Kim, took charge. “She took off her coat and shoved it in my leg,” says DiMartino. While Kim and her (also uninjured) husband tended the family, DiMartino remained lucid: She tied a tourniquet around her knee, and tied her bag (containing her wallet, ID, and phone) to the tourniquet. “Then I laid down on the sidewalk,” she says. “And I thought: ‘Okay, I might die now.’”

Emergency workers quickly loaded DiMartino onto an ambulance with another victim. The man pleaded with workers to find his 4-year-old son, and he held DiMartino’s hand during the transport. One of the last things DiMartino remembers is a paramedic calling ahead to the hospital to tell doctors: “We have amputees here.”

Nearly 24 hours later, DiMartino awoke in the Intensive Care Unit of Boston Medical Center. She was thankful to discover she didn’t lose her leg, but she also learned her injury was serious.  

On Friday, doctors operated for a third time. As police and FBI agents in nearby Watertown, Mass., combed the streets looking for accused bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, surgeons leaned over DiMartino’s leg, meticulously reconnecting her nerves.

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