(WPRI) — In the six months since the day her life changed forever, Newport resident Heather Abbott has marked each milestone with a smile.
Given inside access to the many milestones in her recovery, Eyewitness News last caught up with Abbott at Newport’s first beach.
“I hope that once I figure out this walking on a prosthetic leg thing, that I’m able to help other people as well,” the new amputee said in July.
Months later she has made it part of her journey to use her own story of recovery to help others overcome their own adversity. One of her first speaking engagements, a packed auditorium at Salve Regina University.
“In that moment I wasn’t strong, but I overcame it and that made me strong,” she told the room of college students as she recalled one of the many small, yet unexpected setbacks she has worked through in her recovery.
“I think there was part of me that saw other amputees that came to visit and thought I’m going to be back up and walking in no time,” said Abbott of her recovery expectations. “Then there were times when it wasn’t so easy and I thought I’m never going to get there…I didn’t know what to expect.”
In the four months since Abbott received her prosthetic leg, she has had her socket remade five times to accommodate the changes in her residual limb.
She now has four different legs including a new carbon fiber running leg paid for by the charity Challenged Athletes Foundation. Yet, for those around her, it’s no surprise Abbott is the first of the marathon bombing survivors to be fitted for the running blade.
“We wouldn’t be making a running prosthesis this soon after the marathon if it wasn’t for the attitude, the diligence and the persistence of Heather Abbott,” said Matt Alberquerque, president of Next Step Bionics and Prosthetics.
Despite her progress and the near permanent smile she dons while gracing the cover of People magazine, throwing out the first pitch on Rhode Island day at the Boston Red Sox, Abbott tells Eyewitness News that much of the recovery has been one step forward, two steps back.
Her latest setback, a rude awakening in the middle of the night when a fire alarm sent her searching for her leg and left without an elevator.
“I had to go down 21 flights of stairs and I’m not quick, especially going down!” Abbott said. “It really was kind of a situation that I hadn’t anticipated.”
Abbott says she will continue to speak about her steps forward -and those few steps back, all the while working towards new milestones in her journey.
“I’d really like to have my cosmetic leg done and be able to go to the beach this upcoming summer,” she said.
If her journey thus far is any indication, it will happen.