Shots - Health News
3:03 am
Thu May 2, 2013

Recovery Begins For Mother, Daughter Injured In Boston

Originally published on Fri May 3, 2013 4:19 pm

The number of Boston bombing victims still in the hospital dropped to 19 as of Wednesday evening. The great majority have gone home or to a rehab facility.

That's what has happened with Celeste and Sydney Corcoran, a mother-daughter pair who ended up in the same hospital room after being struck down by the first marathon bomb blast.

Celeste required amputations of both legs, while Sydney, a high school senior, nearly bled to death after being struck by shrapnel.

Celeste, who's 47, is impatient to get on with her life.

"This is the worst part," she tells Shots. "You know, waiting to heal. Because there's basically nothing I can do but just allowing my body to heal right now."

Dr. William Creevy, the Boston Medical Center orthopedic surgeon who amputated her lower legs, says the next phase of Celeste's recovery will be a kind of holding pattern.

"Making sure that the wounds heal," he says, "that she maintains her mobility, that she does exercises so that she doesn't lose her aerobic fitness."

Celeste can't be fitted with her first set of artificial legs for six to eight weeks. Then she'll begin a long period when the stumps of her own legs change constantly as the muscles of her legs shrink.

"The limb changes size," Creevy says, "and the prosthesis has to be adjusted and adjusted and adjusted. Usually it eventually doesn't fit, and somewhere around six, eight or nine months, you have to make another prosthesis."

She might not be steady on that second set of legs until next spring.

Eighteen-year-old Sydney will have a faster convalescence. She didn't require an amputation, but her right leg was severely damaged.

Vascular surgeon Alik Farber at Boston Medical Center says a razor-sharp piece of metal "the size of an iPhone" — probably a fragment of the pressure cooker used to make the bomb — sliced through major blood vessels in Sydney's thigh.

"The hole in her thigh was the size of a small melon," Farber says. "It was very large. Even when we controlled the main artery and vein, there was a lot of bleeding from the muscle because the shrapnel really did a job on her muscle."

Farber says he was able to close the wound without a skin graft. Despite damage to her leg and foot, he says, she'll be OK.

"I think that she's going to recover well," he says. "It's hard to predict, but I suspect that she's going to recover most if not all function."

But the Corcorans' healing is not just physical. They have to recover emotionally as well. That involves coping with their feelings about whoever did this to them.

Celeste has complicated feelings about the surviving brother accused of the crime, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. Those feelings include anger.

"On some level, sure, that's a natural reaction," she says. "You know, if they didn't do that, I wouldn't be like this. But I pity them. I don't wish them any ill."

Does that mean she wouldn't wish for the death penalty if Tsarnaev were convicted?

"I wouldn't want to be the one to make that decision," she says. "If our legal system were to come to that end, then so be it. But I'm glad that I don't have to be his judge and jury."

Most of all, Celeste wants to put Tsarnaev out of her mind.

"I don't want him to affect my life anymore," she says. "I don't want to waste time thinking of this person."

Sydney Corcoran's feelings are different.

"I am angry, and I don't think that there's going to be a time when I won't be," she says. "Maybe it will fade, but I think a part of me will always be a little angry."

Sydney definitely doesn't think Tsarnaev should be condemned to death if he's convicted.

"I think it's just too barbaric," she says. "I would just wish that the younger boy would just live out his life and just have to live with the fact that he did this. I don't think that a death penalty would help. I would rather he would just live a very long life having to cope with this."

Shortly after this conversation, Celeste and Sydney Corcoran said goodbye to Boston Medical Center to start the next phase of their recovery.

Riding hospital gurneys, they passed through the emergency department where they arrived 17 days ago at the height of the crisis. Dozens of nurses, doctors and technicians who helped take care of them burst into prolonged applause.

"You guys," Celeste told them, "I don't know if you know the impact you have in everybody's life. You see people come and go. And maybe people can't thank you. But we thank you from the bottom of our hearts."

Then she cut off further ceremony. "We ready? I gotta stop crying," she said. And it was out the doors to ambulances waiting to take them to Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital on Boston Harbor.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

The number of bombing victims still in Boston's hospitals and trauma centers continues to go down. Scores have gone home or to a rehab facilities. That's true of even the grievously wounded mother and daughter we met on this program yesterday

The mother, Celeste Corcoran, had both her legs amputated. While her daughter Sydney, a high school senior, had nearly bled to death after being struck by shrapnel.

NPR's Richard Knox has the story of this next phase of their recovery.

RICHARD KNOX, BYLINE: Celeste Corcoran is impatient to get on with her life.

CELESTE CORCORAN: This is the worst part, you know, the waiting to heal. Because there's basically nothing I can do but just allowing my body to heal right now.

KNOX: The next phase of Celeste's recovery will be a kind of holding pattern, says her surgeon, William Creevy.

WILLIAM CREEVY: Making sure that the wounds heal, that she maintains her mobility, that she does exercises so that she doesn't lose her aerobic fitness.

KNOX: She can't be fitted with her first set of artificial legs for six to eight weeks. Then she'll begin a long period when the stumps of her own legs change constantly as muscles shrink.

CREEVY: The limb changes size and the prosthesis has to be adjusted and adjusted and adjusted. Usually it eventually doesn't fit, and then somewhere, you know, maybe around six, eight or nine months, you have to make another prosthesis.

KNOX: She might not be steady on that second set of legs until next spring. Eighteen-year-old Sydney will have a faster convalescence. She didn't require an amputation, but her right leg was severely damaged. Surgeon Alik Farber says a razor-sharp piece of metal the size of an iPhone, probably a fragment of the pressure cooker used to make the bomb, sliced through major blood vessels in Sydney's thigh.

ALIK FARBER: The hole in her thigh was the size of a small melon. It was very large. Even when we controlled the main artery and vein, there was a lot of bleeding from the muscle because the shrapnel really did a job on her muscle.

KNOX: Farber says they were able to close the wound without a skin graft. Despite damage to her leg and foot, he says she'll be OK.

FARBER: I think that she's going to recover well. It's hard to predict, but I suspect that she's going to recover most if not all function.

KNOX: But the healing is not just physical. The Corcorans have to recover emotionally as well. That involves coping with feelings about the people who did this to them. Celeste has complicated feelings towards Dzhorkar Tsarnaev, the surviving brother accused of the crime. That includes anger.

CORCORAN: I mean on some level, sure, that's a natural reaction, you know, like if they didn't do that, I wouldn't be like this. But I pity them. Like I don't wish them any ill.

KNOX: You would not want him to have the death penalty?

CORCORAN: I wouldn't want to be the one to make that decision. If our legal system were to come to that end, then so be it. But I'm glad that I don't have to be his judge and jury.

KNOX: Most of all, Celeste wants to put Tsarnaev out of her mind.

CORCORAN: What he did affected my life, but I don't want him to affect my life anymore. I don't want to waste time thinking of this person.

KNOX: Sydney Corcoran's feelings are different.

SYDNEY CORCORAN: I am angry, and I don't think that there's going to be a time where I won't be. Maybe it will fade, but I think a part of me will always be a little angry.

KNOX: She definitely doesn't think Tsarnaev should be condemned to death if he's convicted.

CORCORAN: I think like it's just too barbaric. And I would just wish that the younger boy would just live out his life and just have to live with the fact that he did this. I don't think that a death penalty would help. I would rather him just live out his life and having to cope with this.

KNOX: But now it's time for Celeste and Sydney to start the next phase of their recovery.

CORCORAN: A new beginning.

KNOX: They're saying goodbye to Boston Medical Center, passing through the emergency department where they arrived 17 days ago at the height of the crisis.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: These are some of the nurses who took care of you and your daughter on Monday. There's nurses, there's doctors, there's residents.

(APPLAUSE)

CORCORAN: You guys, I don't know if you know the impact you have in everybody's life. You see people come and go and, you know, get to do this every day. And maybe people can't thank you, you know. But we thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: You ought to be proud of her. She was incredible.

CORCORAN: All right. We ready? I gotta stop crying.

KNOX: So now it's off by ambulance to Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital on Boston Harbor. Richard Knox, NPR News, Boston. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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