Marathon bombing survivors prepare for charity's closing

AP News
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Posted: Dec 15, 2014 12:05 PM
Marathon bombing survivors prepare for charity's closing

NEWPORT, R.I. (AP) — Heather Abbott says One Fund Boston — the charity set up in the aftermath of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings — helped her reclaim a degree of normalcy after losing part of her left leg.

The 40-year-old Raytheon worker was able to acquire, in part through the fund's generous donors, four different prosthetic legs: one for daily use, a waterproof one, a running leg and another for wearing high heels. A few of them look so real that people rarely take notice, even if she's out in sandals, Abbott says.

But One Fund Boston is winding down, having distributed nearly $80 million in donations to victims and their families after two pressure cooker bombs killed three people and injured more than 260 others at the marathon finish line in April 2013.

On Monday, the charity will take down its online donations page; any checks received after Dec. 31 will be returned.

Lori van Dam, One Fund's executive director, says the non-profit — which collected donations from more than 200,000 individuals, corporations and charities in more than 60 countries — does not plan to make further direct payments to victims.

The charity gave about $2.3 million to each of the families that lost a relative in the bombings.

Those like Abbott who lost limbs or suffered other serious injuries received anywhere from $421,000 to $3.3 million, depending on the extent of their wounds.

Those who were hospitalized but suffered less serious injuries received between $150,000 and about $1 million, while those treated as outpatients and not hospitalized received between $12,500 and $20,500.

Van Dam says any money remaining after paying the fund's administrative costs will go to the One Fund Center. That program, launched in September at Massachusetts General Hospital and the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, will provide victims care for traumatic brain injury, persistent hearing problems and mental health issues like post-traumatic stress disorder and anxiety for at least two years.

Amputees, though, will face other long-term costs because their prostheses will need to be replaced every few years.

Abbott knows she'll have to find other ways to pay for the costly appendages, which will require regular upkeep and replacement for the rest of her life.

She expects her health insurance to cover one new leg, which can run from $20,000 to $100,000, every three to five years.

But insurance likely won't cover her specialized running, swimming or high heel legs. Nor does it appear it will pay for other costs, such as adjusting the fit of the prosthesis as her stump atrophies and changes over time.

Abbott, who now works part-time, hopes she'll make up the difference by wisely investing the money she's been given, a plan that includes the construction of her own home in Newport.

"I can only imagine how other amputees feel who don't have a One Fund," Abbott says. "I can't thank the donors enough for all of their support and generosity."

Rebekah DiMartino, of Texas, is equally grateful — even if her future may be less certain.

The marathon bombing survivor finally had her left leg amputated last month after 17 operations to save it. She didn't qualify for additional One Fund money like other amputees because her amputation came so late.

Instead, DiMartino expects her insurance will cover some of the costs for her prosthesis when it's ready. The rest she'll have to pay out of pocket.

"It's a little scary because being a recent amputee I was not entitled to the sums that they received," DiMartino said via email, referring to other survivors who lost limbs in the attacks. "However, I am more than grateful for what I did get and know that everything else will work out."

The One Fund was created by Gov. Deval Patrick and then-Boston Mayor Thomas Menino in the days after the attack.

Like Abbott, DiMartino thinks the organization — which was never conceived as a long-term charity — has served its purpose, and she has no problem with it winding down.

"When it comes to injuries sustained from a bombing, there's really no way to place a price or payout for a lifetime of treatment," she said. "The One Fund did as good of a job that they could have done with payouts with not knowing everyone's path for healing and progression."

A suspect charged in the bombing, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, goes on trial in January. His older brother, Tamerlan, was killed in a shootout with police.