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Rochester strong

"Rochester strong" Continued...

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

The surgery was successful, but doctors told DiMartino her nerves would have to regrow from her knee to her toes before she could feel her foot again. The estimated time: 400 days.

The next two weeks brought a steady stream of visitors, as her parents alternated visits between DiMartino and her brother. (Peter was recovering from surgery and skin grafts.) Friends and leaders from her church in Rochester drove six hours to visit. And the day before DiMartino left for rehab, another visitor arrived: Steve, the injured man who rode with her in the ambulance.

From their stretchers, Steve and DiMartino greeted each other with tears. DiMartino inquired after his son. He was unharmed. She asked Steve about his own condition. He said he was fine. She pressed, and she learned the truth: The paramedics had been right about his injury. He lost his leg from the knee down.

CHANGE OF PLANS: The DiMartinos along the marathon route with signs for mom.
DiMartino family
CHANGE OF PLANS: The DiMartinos along the marathon route with signs for mom.
CHANGE OF PLANS: The memorial service for Martin Richard.
Gregory L. Tracy/The Pilot/AP
CHANGE OF PLANS: The memorial service for Martin Richard.
CHANGE OF PLANS: Peter working with his therapist in Boston.
Associated Press/Photo by Charles Krupa
CHANGE OF PLANS: Peter working with his therapist in Boston.
CHANGE OF PLANS: Gina recovering at home with a young friend.
DiMartino family
CHANGE OF PLANS: Gina recovering at home with a young friend.

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In the months since the Boston bombing, dozens of survivors have learned to cope with injury and trauma. Like the DiMartinos, some families had multiple victims. For example, brothers J.P. and Paul Norden, ages 33 and 31, both lost their right leg above the knee. 

Major injuries mean lost income and mounting medical bills for many. Weeks-long hospital stays cost tens of thousands of dollars. Depending on the level of technology, a single prosthetic limb can cost between $5,000 and $50,000, according to the advocacy group Amputee Coalition. Patients must replace the limbs every few years.

Depending on caps in patients’ insurance plans, some could face a lifetime of medical bills. And though donors contributed more than $30 million to The One Fund Boston to help cover expenses for survivors, the fund’s administrator acknowledged it wouldn’t be enough to cover all the needs.

For now, many survivors are focusing on moment-by-moment recovery. Some are finding encouragement in their churches and communities. An overflow crowd packed St. Ann Catholic Church in Neponset, Mass., for a memorial service for Martin Richard, one of three killed in the bombing. The family scheduled the service for June 9—Martin’s 9th birthday.

The many children at the service included Martin’s 7-year-old sister, Jane, who lost her left leg below the knee. Priest Sean Connor talked with the children about hope, and remembered Jane’s first words to him after she awoke in the hospital: “Where have you been? You have to pray.”

For those coping with post-traumatic stress, Alasdair Groves—a counselor with the Christian Counseling & Education Foundation (CCEF)—says it’s important to remind survivors: “This is a normal response to an abnormal situation.” (Indeed, some military officials are beginning to drop the “D” from “PTSD,” recognizing that stress after a traumatic situation like combat is less a disorder and more a normal reaction to something terrible.)

For Christians coping with trauma, Groves says it’s important to learn to embrace both God’s sovereignty and His goodness: “It’s like the story of the redemption of the world: It started great, it went bad, but it’s going to get better. That’s how God works.”

Groves emphasizes that’s not a trite saying, but a process that takes time. Those helping survivors of trauma must give room to grieve and suffer. But Christians who embrace God’s sovereignty can believe God will use evil for good, he says: “You will be useful for having gone through this.”

Back in Rochester, that’s DiMartino’s hope. These days, she balances doctor appointments and rehab with sketching, reading, welcoming visitors, and slowly returning to cooking. Her blog features recipes, music, and pictures of smiling visits with friends. 

She’s thankful she and her brother are safe, and says she doesn’t mind sharing a room. (Peter moved back to his parents’ home to recover, and DiMartino can’t climb the stairs to her upstairs bedroom.)

Still, some days are hard: She can’t leave the house without help. She still hasn’t gone into a crowd of people. Everything takes longer. She knows her recovery will be a long process. Not long after returning home, she blogged: “I did sit down on the couch and cry tonight. … But my sweet parents sat with me. Cried with me. And prayed for me. And I know God’s mercies are new every morning. …”

DiMartino says reflecting on her experience helps: She thinks about how her sister—with no medical training—knew exactly what to do in the critical first moments after the bombing.

She thinks about how her spring swimming regimen gave her the upper body strength she would need to use crutches. She thinks about how God is taking care of her family through practical help from her church and friends: “That gives us hope.”

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