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Marathon amputee, wife of AF captain, vows to dance again

Apr. 25, 2013 - 11:54AM   |  
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BOSTON — Mornings are the hardest for Adrianne Haslet, wife of an airman, because the 32-year-old professional ballroom dancer forgets at first that her left foot is gone.

Beth Roche wakes up knowing she can’t feel sorry for herself, that she has to focus on rehabbing her ravaged left leg.

But despite life-changing injuries, both women have vowed that the Boston Marathon bombings that killed three people and left them among the ranks of more than 260 injured will not define their lives.

Parts of them may be broken, but both patients at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital said in separate interviews Wednesday that their spirits are intact and their thoughts are positive.

“I absolutely want to dance again and I also want to run the marathon next year,” said Haslet. “I will crawl across the finish line, literally crawl, if it means I finish it.”

Roche, a 59-year-old medical office manager from Highland, Ind., who ran Chicago’s marathon last year, said she’s concentrating on more than just walking again.

“I want to do another marathon by the time I’m 65,” she said Wednesday.

Roche said the first bomb at the marathon peeled her leg open “like a sardine can.” It happened right after she saw her daughter, Rebecca Roche, a 33-year-old Boston pharmacist, cross the race’s finish line.

The mother has had one surgery in which doctors implanted pins and plates in her leg, and has another surgery in her future.

The first blast left bones poking out of her leg, and made her unable to run for cover. She said a first responder tried to shield her as the second bomb exploded.

Roche ended up at Tufts Medical Center, and begged staffers before she went into surgery to find her family and let them know she was alive.

The blast from the second explosion knocked Haslet off her feet from about four feet away.

The Boston woman, an Arthur Murray Dance Studio employee, thought she was going to die when she looked down and saw how her body had been mutilated.

She’s had one surgery to amputate her left foot, and another in which doctors amputated more of the same leg below her knee.

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In the hours before terror struck Boylston Street, Haslet was basking in the joy of having her husband home again. Two weeks earlier, the Air Force captain had returned from a four-month deployment in Afghanistan.

On Patriots’ Day afternoon, they were walking near the marathon’s finish line when the second explosion left them tangled in a heap on the ground and Haslet saw something was wrong with her foot.

“I remember thinking, ‘That’s so gross,’ and being terrified that this is the moment I was going to die,” she said.

Haslet crawled toward a restaurant door, before someone dragged her toward a staircase. Her husband, although also injured, took off his belt to make a tourniquet for her. Then others arrived to help and soon she was in a triage area where someone wrote a number on her forehead.

“I just prayed that I had a number that was high enough to get help,” she said. “I just kept screaming out, ‘I’m a ballroom dancer! I’m a ballroom dancer! Just save my foot.’”

The next day, she woke up at Boston Medical Center and saw her mother.

“I told my mom ‘My foot feels like it’s asleep.’ And she said, ‘Adrianne, you don’t have a foot anymore.’”

Nine days after the attack, neither Haslet nor Roche has thought much about the Russian-born brothers, one dead, one alive, whom authorities said are responsible for the attack.

As she recovers, Haslet said she trusts law-enforcement officials will do what’s best.

She’s hoping to get a prosthetic device in the next two months.

Roche cannot bend her left leg, as a grid of metal rods that’s meant to help her heal protrudes into it.

She said she isn’t sure if authorities should seek the death penalty for the remaining bombing suspect, but says everyone should move forward without fear.

“If we’re afraid, the enemy wins,” she said.

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