Marathon Bombing Survivors Face A World That Still Feels Out Of Control
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
This next story begins on a New Hampshire driveway two years ago today. That's when Alvaro and Martha Galvis climbed into the car for their annual drive to the Boston Marathon, a ritual for them since 1974. The trip in 2013, of course, turned out differently than any other. Bombs killed three people that day, and the Galvises were among hundreds injured. This is a story of how people recover. From member station WBUR, Martha Bebinger reports.
MARTHA BEBINGER, BYLINE: Martha Galvis clenches her lips and narrows large brown eyes to focus on a morsel of muffin. She pushes it back and forth, then in circles across a slick table, trying to close her thumb and middle finger around the crumb.
MARTHA GALVIS: I struggle and struggle until, you know, I try as much as I can. And if I do it, I am so happy. I'm so happy (laughter).
BEBINGER: The 62-year-old former assistant preschool teacher, who was born in Columbia, has physical therapy twice a week. She's learning to use a hand doctors are still reconstructing. A pressure cooker bomb placed on the ground hurled nails and BBs into Galvis' left leg and her hand that reached down at that moment for her bag.
M. GALVIS: I don't know if you can still see the surgeries all around here. My hand was destroyed - destroyed. It was so bad.
BEBINGER: Doctors were able to save everything but Galvis' ring finger. Seventeen marathon bombing patients lost parts of one or both legs. Just a few patients had serious hand injuries because the deadly spray went sideways from the ground, not up. Galvis had to learn to walk again and has had 16 surgeries on her hand so far. She's worn down.
M. GALVIS: But then I'm thinking about when I was going to the marathon. And I was cheering the people, and I say, come on, keep going, keep going, one mile. So I look at my hand, and I say, come on, keep going, keep going. You can do it. This is like a marathon. And I can feel people in Boston say, yes, you can do it. Come on, keep going, keep going.
BEBINGER: For some marathon bombing survivors, the emotional and psychological scars are healing more slowly than the physical ones. Galvis pauses to stroke the shoulder of her husband, Alvaro. He's a 64-year-old health insurance salesman who was next to his wife when the bombs exploded.
ALVARO GALVIS: People tell me time heals. But it's a very slowly turning clock to me.
BEBINGER: He had two surgeries. Doctors removed a 1-inch by 2.5-inch piece of pressure cooker from his leg. It became evidence in the trial of now-convicted bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.
A. GALVIS: I don't know if we are wired as human beings to be able to deal with tragedies like this. We're trying. We'll keep trying.
BEBINGER: Neither Alvaro nor Martha Galvis has been able to return to work since the bombing. They say they were getting better before the trial. But with the verdict last week, the race anniversary this week and sentencing next week, they are constantly on edge. So Martha Galvis prays.
M. GALVIS: I ask God, please. You know, in my heart, I don't want to hate him. I don't want to hate him because it's no good for me to feel that I hate him. And I ask God for him. But he has to be punished because he did horrible things. So he has to be punished.
BEBINGER: Martha and Alvaro Galvis stop the interview. It's too much. They leave the hospital arm in arm, supporting and protecting each other in a world they've learned they cannot control. For NPR News, I'm Martha Bebinger in Boston.
INSKEEP: This story's part of a reporting partnership with NPR, WBUR and Kaiser Health News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.