Six Heroic Saves

For the victims of the marathon bombings, the process of healing isn’t merely physical—it’s emotional, too. And the bonds they forged with the doctors who treated them that fateful day have helped restore both mind and body.


Photograph by Henry Busby

The Doctor:

David Crandell

Inpatient medical director for the amputee program, Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital

The Patients:

Heather Abbott & Roseann Sdoia

Human resources manager, Newport, Rhode Island & Property manager, Boston

As news spread through the city that many of the injured would need amputations, David Crandell began readying his staff. “We’re not first responders. We’re not even second responders,” he said of his team at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital. “But we were going to need to respond in a way the other places didn’t.”

Within a week of the bombings, Spaulding was attending to an influx of patients—33 in all, including 16 who had lost limbs and needed to be fitted for prostheses. For Heather Abbott and Roseann Sdoia, it was an odd reunion. They’d met a few times through a mutual friend who had put them back in touch just a week before the marathon. After the blast, they’d been sent to different trauma hospitals for their injuries—Sdoia’s right leg was amputated above the knee, and Abbott lost her left foot—but they arrived at Spaulding at nearly the same time.

Abbott was too upset to take part in the support groups Spaulding offered. “The only other person I was able to interact with was Roseann,” she says. But the pair bonded with Crandell when they learned that he had been the team physician for the U.S. National Amputee Hockey Team, which Sdoia’s friend had played on. In time, Crandell became the women’s team physician as well. This past May, Sdoia played catcher as Abbott practiced maintaining her balance so she could throw the first pitch out at Fenway Park.

“A lot of healing happens here,” Crandell says. “They learn that having an amputation shapes you, but it doesn’t define you.”