Loss of Legs Can’t Stop Marathon Victim Jeff Bauman
Mary Perra gives Jeff Bauman a hug and kiss while visiting with him at at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital in Boston, May 5, 2013. Perra is the grandmother of Michele Mahoney, Bauman's friend that was with him the day of the Boston Marathon. Bauman says he gets visitors around the clock.
(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)
Jeff Bauman, the father of the Jeff Bauman that was injured in the Boston Marathon bombings, has spent much of the last month in Boston while his son is in recovery. "I went back to work and was just in a fog," he said at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital in Boston, May 5, 2013.
(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)
Concord — If it were up to Jeff Bauman, he would have spent Sunday night out in Lowell, Mass., at a benefit concert in his honor put on by some friends.
“I could easily go to it, but I don’t think my doctors will let me,” he told Gov. Maggie Hassan, who paid him a visit Sunday afternoon at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital in Boston.
Instead, he told Hassan, maybe he’d call his girlfriend and have her take him out for a ride. He can get in and out of her car using a slide board, storing his wheelchair in the backseat.
“I’m going to call her, and I think I’m going to go somewhere today,” he said.
“You busting out again?” his dad, also named Jeff Bauman, said with a chuckle. Bauman was at the TD Garden the night before to see the Boston Bruins play, proudly waving the flag on the ice to raucous cheers before the game.
“This is killing me, staying here,” Bauman said.
This is a glimpse into Bauman’s attitude in the wake of losing both of his legs from the thigh down in the Boston Marathon bombings: He’s ready to get out, get moving and get on with his life. He’ll be at Spaulding for at least another week and is still about three weeks out from getting fitted for his prosthetic legs. The road ahead will be long and often hard, and both Bauman and his family know that his life will be different. But it’s not over.
“He said, ‘Dad, don’t worry, I’m going to be mobile. I’m going to be up there, I’m going to be everywhere,’ ” said his father, who lives in Concord. “He’s like, ‘I’m not going to be tied down.’ ”
The damage and blood loss in Bauman’s legs was so severe that he was the first victim taken into surgery at Boston Medical Center the afternoon of the bombings. His father found out Bauman, 27, had been injured when his stepdaughter frantically called him saying she’d seen him in a photo. Once the family was able to confirm that Bauman was at Boston Medical Center, his father and stepmother headed down to Boston from Concord.
The photo the elder Jeff Bauman had seen was cropped, so on his way down he didn’t know the extent of his son’s injuries. In Bauman’s first surgery, his legs were amputated just below the knees. Although the doctors told Bauman what happened before his surgery, they weren’t sure if he’d remember when he woke up. But he remembered everything, including the reality of his injuries.
“That was a little easier, it was a little easier on us and on him,” his father said.
A few days later, however, Bauman went into a second surgery and the doctors removed more of his legs above the knee. The first point of amputation right under the knee wouldn’t work well with prosthetics, Bauman’s father said. In a way, that second surgery was tougher.
“That, I think, hurt him more than anything,” his father said.
At Boston Medical Center, there is a room for the families, and it became a gathering place where parents, spouses and friends could share their grief.
“It’s been a roller coaster for us and for Jeff, too, for all these families,” the elder Jeff Bauman said. “When we were in Boston Medical Center, it was the fifth floor of the surgical intensive care, it was like a war zone. ... It was hard for a lot of people.”
Bauman stayed at Boston Medical Center for about two weeks before moving to rehab. His first four days at Spaulding were spent at the old location, then he and all of the marathon survivors were moved to the brand new facility in Charlestown.
His days begin early, as it can be hard to sleep through the night, and he usually completes three hours of physical therapy by 11 a.m. Most of the therapy is to strengthen his legs in preparation for the prosthetics, he said. He also does strength training to help him get in and out of and use a wheelchair. On his legs he wears bandages that he calls “shrinkers,” to help keep down the swelling and shape his legs for the prosthetics.
“This is getting ready to walk,” Bauman said.
There was an immediate change in Bauman after he gave the FBI a description of Tamerlan Tsarnaev, one of the suspects, his father said. Helping the FBI gave Bauman a sense of purpose as he lay there in his hospital bed. Rather than feeling helpless, he played a part in helping track down one of the brothers accused of hurting him and so many others.
“They said to him that what you’ve provided us is what we were looking for,” Bauman’s father said. “From that point on we saw a change in him. ... It lifted him, and it made him more alert.”
Beyond assisting in the investigation, the constant stream of visitors and support from close to home and around the country has aided the emotional side of Bauman’s recovery. Carlos Arredondo, the man who helped save his life, has visited Bauman in the hospital several times. The two never run out of things to talk about.
“He’s a great guy, he’s funny,” Bauman said. “He has so many stories about his life, what he’s been through, so he’s really interesting.”
On another occasion, members of the Marines and Navy who had been injured in service visited Bauman. One of them was a double above-the-knee amputee, just like Bauman; he now runs marathons, climbs mountains and kayaks. Another was missing one leg above the knee and had reconstructive surgery on his arm and no vision in one eye. They all told Bauman that it was possible to thrive in his new life.
“All three said their life has changed more for the positive since their accident happened, and they’ve been more active and doing more things than they were before their accidents,” Bauman’s father said. “They were just like, ‘Don’t worry about a thing.’ ”
Bauman is already eager to get out as much as he can. His younger brother, Alan, who is from Concord, is home for two weeks after completing Air Force training in Texas. The Baumans are a big hockey family, and a juniors team in Massachusetts extended Alan an offer to play in some games, the elder Bauman said.
Last week, Bauman made plans to go watch Alan play in a game in Foxborough, Mass. His girlfriend was going to pick him up, and they would meet the rest of the family at the game. Bauman has always been one of Alan’s biggest fans, and he was so excited to get out and see him play, their father said. Unfortunately, the game time changed at the last minute, and Bauman was unable to make it. But Alan shared every detail with him later. Since Bauman can’t be playing sports himself right now, he delighted in hearing about it from his brother.
“Jeff just feeds into hearing about these (games),” their father said.
Beyond the direct support of his family and friends, prayers, donations and well wishes for Bauman have been pouring in from around the world. Concord Youth Hockey, where Bauman’s two brothers played and his father coached, has been raising money, and an online fundraiser set up by Bauman’s friends from Massachusetts has brought in nearly $750,000. He gets cards and gifts from Costco, where he works in Nashua. Celebrities and professional athletes stop by to see him. The kindness of friends and strangers means a lot to Bauman.
“It’s great support,” he said. “It makes me forget about my situation for a little bit.”
His family never imagined the photo of Bauman’s pain would inspire so many people to give.
“There’s a lot of good people in this country,” Bauman’s father said.
Hoping to Travel
Moving forward, Bauman’s future contains few certainties. When he leaves rehab, he’ll stay with his mother in Massachusetts. She lives in a ground-floor apartment that will be easy for him to navigate. It will also keep him closer to his girlfriend, who lives in Brighton, Mass.
He’ll be home and using a wheelchair for about two weeks, then he will return to Spaulding to get his prosthetic legs. He’s not sure if he’ll have to stay overnight while he adjusts or can be an out patient.
The Costco in Nashua where Bauman worked at the deli has told him they’ll do whatever is needed to accommodate his return to work. If he can’t be on his feet all day, they’ll train him to work in another section of the store, his father said. Bauman was also working on completing his college degree. He has credits from both the University of Massachusetts at Lowell and Middlesex Community College. Both UMass-Lowell and Southern New Hampshire University have reached out to the family and offered to help Bauman complete his education.
But Bauman has plenty of time to figure out what he wants to do. Right after the bombing, he told his dad he wanted to take a vacation, travel the country. Soon, maybe he’ll be able to. Maybe he could share his story, his father said.
“I hope he does what he wants,” the elder Jeff Bauman said. “Go see the country, do something, talk it up to people. Tell them like the Marines said to him: That nothing’s going to hold you back.”