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5:26 pm
Fri May 31, 2013

Survivor Of Boston Marathon Bombings Has Long Road Ahead

Originally published on Mon June 3, 2013 10:41 am

Marc Fucarile reached a huge milestone this week: He was one of the last two Boston Marathon bombing survivors to be released from the hospital.

Fucarile spent 45 days in Massachusetts General Hospital, and he hopes someday to get back to work with a roofing company.

But first he will have to go through rehab. He lost his right leg, and his left leg was badly hurt. He also suffered head injuries.

He's eligible for compensation from a fund for victims called the Boston One Fund. Almost $38 million has been donated to the fund so far.

The deadline to apply is in two weeks, yet the full extent of Fucarile's injuries won't be known for years.

Survivors with permanent brain injuries or those who lost both legs will receive more money than single amputees. The application is based on injuries to date, and there are no plans to extend the deadline.

Fucarile is not complaining, but he's also not sure which category he fits in.

"The One Fund's a great thing," he says. "I can't believe how many people have stepped up. The good that's out there in this world is just phenomenal. And, you know we're all hurting. I don't know what my outcome's going to be when I get out of here, and what kind of bills I'm going to have. And that's starting to stress me out."

From his bed on his last day at Mass General, Fucarile described what happened to him on April 15.

By the time a firefighter finished applying a tourniquet to his leg, all available ambulances had left the marathon finish line full of casualties. A police officer carried Fucarile, his skin still smoldering, to a van typically used to transport prisoners and raced to the hospital. It was a rough ride.

"I think I might have been on a bench part of the seat, and the firefighter was trying to hold me on there. I don't know, I was slamming my head a lot," Fucarile says.

Surgeons told Fucarile that if he had arrived two or three minutes later, he would have died.

In the hospital, he endured multiple surgeries and skin grafts, induced comas and dozens of tests. In rehab, he will have to start rebuilding his arm strength first because his remaining leg is still too damaged for physical therapy.

He looks down and cups the stub of his right thigh, the wound layered in bandages. "It's still wide open," he says. "It hasn't been healed or shut yet. It has its moments where it has sharp pains, and the meds can't do nothing about it."

Fucarile's left leg, in a knee-length cast, is red, scarred and still riddled with scrap metal.

"The left leg is improving," he says. "It's questionable how functional it's going to be. Potentially I could be a double amputee, but the doctors have a strong hope for it. It's going to take me and therapy to get it to really work."

Family members packed Fucarile's room for a send-off. Doctors and nurses stop by too, remembering a charred, mangled man, barely holding onto life. To nurse anesthetist Amanda Heidbreder, who saw him that day in the operating room, Fucarile was simply "Distress Patient C."

"I felt determined that I was going to find out what his name was, who he was, what he was all about, and now I know," she says. "He's an inspiration to a lot of people. The evil that happened is not going to beat him. He's going to beat it."

Jen Regan is Fucarile's fiancee and the mother of their 5-year-old son, Gavin. He cries at night, asking for his dad. But on this day, Regan cried too, tears of relief and gratitude.

"Every day's been a step forward and then four steps back, and finally we have a solid step forward," Regan says. "I'm excited for Gavin to see him in a new place, and, you know, it's just a good day."

Regan and Fucarile hope to marry soon. But she's told Fucarile it won't happen until he's ready to dance.

"I don't have a choice, she's going to make me," he says. "Like I said, with one prosthetic or two, I'm still going to do it."

Fucarile won't know if his left leg can be saved for a year or more. He expects therapy and related costs to continue for the rest of his life.

This piece is part of a collaboration with NPR, WBUR, and Kaiser Health News.

Copyright 2013 WBUR. To see more, visit http://www.wbur.org.

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

Marc Fucarile left the hospital this week. He's a survivor of the Boston Marathon bombing, and one of the most gravely injured. Fucarile's stay in the hospital was 45 days. His rehabilitation will take years, and he's worried about how he'll pay for it.

Martha Bebinger, of member station WBUR, has his story.

MARTHA BEBINGER, BYLINE: By the time a firefighter finished applying a tourniquet to Marc Fucarile's leg, all available ambulances had left the marathon finish line full of casualties. A police officer carried Fucarile, his skin still smoldering, to a wagon typically used to transport prisoners and raced to Massachusetts General Hospital.

MARC FUCARILE: Yeah. With one of the police officer screaming out the window, get out of the way. I think I might have been on the bench part of the seat, and the firefighter was trying to hold me on there. I don't know. I was slamming my head a lot.

BEBINGER: Surgeons told Fucarile that if he'd arrived two or three minutes later, he would have died. But now, after surgeries that included multiple skin grafts, after induced comas and dozens of tests, Fucarile is leaving Mass General for rehab. He'll start rebuilding strength in his arms because he can't use his left leg yet. Fucarile looks down and cups the stub of his right thigh, the wound layered in bandages.

FUCARILE: It's still wide open. It hasn't been healed or shut yet. I mean, it has its moments where it has sharp pains. The meds can't do nothing about it.

BEBINGER: Fucarile's left leg, in a knee-length cast, is red, scarred and still riddled with scrap metal.

FUCARILE: The left leg is improving. It's questionable how functional it's going to be. Potentially, I could be a double amputee, but the doctors have a strong hope for it. It's going to take me and therapy to get it to really work...

(LAUGHTER)

FUCARILE: ...along with some possibilities of it not closing up and healing.

BEBINGER: Fucarile is also recovering from brain injuries. His uncertain medical condition makes it difficult to apply for the almost $38 million donated so far to Boston's One Fund. Survivors with permanent brain injuries or those who lost both legs will receive more money than single amputees. But the application, based on injuries to date, is due in two weeks, and there are no plans to extend the deadline.

FUCARILE: I mean, the One Fund is a great thing. I can't believe how many people have stepped up. The good that's out there in this world is just phenomenal. And, you know, we're all hurting. You know, I don't know what my outcome is going to be when I get out of here and what kind of bills I'm going to have, and that's starting to stress me out.

BEBINGER: At this point, his share probably won't come close to covering his costs. Fucarile has health insurance, but he worries it won't pay all his medical bills. His sister set up a separate fund that has raised almost $150,000, but a state-of-the-art prosthetic limb costs more than $100,000, and they wear out every three years or so.

Family members pack Fucarile's room for a sendoff. Doctors and nurses stop by too, remembering a charred, mangled man, barely holding onto life. To nurse anesthetist Amanda Heidbreder, who saw him that day in the operating room, Fucarile was simply Distress Patient C.

AMANDA HEIDBREDER: I felt determined that I was going to find out what his name was, who he was, what he was all about, and now I know. He's an inspiration to a lot of people. The evil that happened is not going to beat him. He's going to beat it.

BEBINGER: There are lots of tears of relief and gratitude.

JEN REGAN: It's just such a big day. I mean...

BEBINGER: Jen Regan is Fucarile's fiancee and the mother of their 5-year-old son Gavin, who cries nights, asking for his dad.

REGAN: Every day has been a step forward and then four steps back, and then, like, finally, we have a solid step forward. So I'm just excited. I'm excited for Gavin to see him in a new place, and I don't know. It's just a good day.

BEBINGER: Regan and Fucarile hope to marry soon, but she's told Fucarile it won't happen until he's ready to dance.

FUCARILE: I don't have a choice. She's going to make me. If it's with one prosthesis or with two, I'm still going to do it.

BEBINGER: Fucarile won't know if his left leg can be saved for a year or more. He expects therapy and related costs to continue for the rest of his life. For NPR News, I'm Martha Bebinger in Boston.

BLOCK: That story is part of a collaboration with NPR, WBUR and Kaiser Health News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.