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:

Jennifer L. Hoffman

Orthopedic surgeon, Tufts Medical Center

The Patient:

Lee Ann Yanni

Physical therapist, Boston

Lee Ann Yanni was at the finish line, waiting for one of her physical therapy patients to complete the race, when she felt something warm brush up against her legs. Looking down, she saw bone and blood. “The bone broke out of my skin and shattered in pieces,” she says. She’d seen enough injuries to know it was bad. And yet she began plotting her own recovery in the ambulance on the way to Tufts Medical Center—she’d been training to run the Chicago Marathon, and asked the EMTs if the hospital had good orthopedic surgeons.

Jennifer Hoffman was in the ER when Yanni arrived. “She had a bad open fracture on her leg with shrapnel [in it], and she had some tendon and nerve damage,” she says. Shortly after Hoffman performed the initial trauma surgery, Yanni was already focused on her next race. “The first time I remember seeing her I said, ‘When can I run?’” Yanni recalls.

Hoffman quickly learned the unique challenges that arise when a patient is also a physical therapist. “Lee Ann fully understood the ramifications of what was going on,” says Hoffman, who saw Yanni push herself harder, perhaps, than she might have pushed her own therapy patients. “I think she mentally knew what she should and shouldn’t be able to do, but it was still hard for her to dial it back and say, ‘Okay, this is what’s expected for the injury I have.’”

Yanni was unable to walk on her leg for five and a half weeks, but resumed her marathon training shortly thereafter. “As a PT I knew that I shouldn’t be running, but they knew how important it was for me to do it,” Yanni says. In October she finished the Chicago Marathon in five hours and 44 minutes.