Early on the morning of the 2013 Boston Marathon, 19-year-old Jaymi Cohen was throwing and catching lacrosse balls with her Tufts University teammates. It was shaping up to be a great day.
The group of 12 took the subway into Boston and joined the spectators cheering on marathon runners. They stood near the finish line for a time, but decided to walk farther up Boylston Street and found a spot in front of Forum restaurant.
Then, the unthinkable happened. Jaymi heard a loud blast to her left and saw smoke. Immediately, she thought about 9/11 and planes crashing into buildings. “We have to get out of here,” she shouted to her teammates and to those standing near her. “We need to run.”
The team took off. Eight seconds later, another bomb exploded behind Jaymi with a noise so loud that she thought she had lost her hearing. In the chaos, Jaymi got separated from her friends. All around her people were in shock. Some were on the ground. Still running, Jaymi called her dad, Dana, on her cell phone. “My legs are bleeding,” she screamed to him. “My legs are bleeding.”
Hearing Radio Details about the Boston Marathon Bombing
Dana Cohen was on his way out of Boston with a client he had taken to the annual Marathon Day Red Sox game. He urged Jaymi to find someone to help her and stayed on the phone. When Jaymi found help, Dana told the woman to wrap Jaymi’s bleeding legs. Jaymi continued to warn others of what she had seen, even as people were helping her. From the car radio, Dana heard details of the Boston Marathon bombing. His heart racing, he picked up his wife, Cindy, at their Andover home and they sped back to Boston.
“I first felt safe when I was in the ambulance on my way to Mass General,” Jaymi Cohen recalls.
Meanwhile, another woman gave Jaymi headphones so she could relax. An EMT took her blood pressure. More help was coming.”I first felt safe when I was in the ambulance on my way to Mass General,” Jaymi recalls. “I got there and the nurses said, ‘You’re finally safe. You have nothing more to worry about. You’re going to be fine.’ That’s when my heart rate slowed down.”
Jaymi could feel her legs, so she was somewhat at ease, but knew her mother would be worried. Soon after the Boston Marathon bombing, cell phone service was jammed.
By then, Dana and Cindy Cohen had arrived at Mass General but, with security tightening, they initially had trouble getting inside. They separated so Dana could park the car. Cindy ran to one of the hospital’s entrances. Nearly hysterical, she pleaded with police officers and military personnel.
A Doctor Searches for Jaymi
Two officers brought her inside, where emergency staff advised that Jaymi was in X-ray. Mindy Sherman, MD, a pediatric attending physician, met Cindy by chance in the emergency department. She knew Cindy needed to know more about her daughter’s injuries so she promised to find Jaymi in Mass General’s emergency department.
“She couldn’t have been more sympathetic and compassionate,” Cindy remembers. “Dr. Sherman understood the panic we were feeling.”
Dr. Sherman found Jaymi and arranged for her to be transferred to emergency pediatrics because pediatrics handles patients up until age 20.
“They kept reassuring us that she was going to be OK. As a mother, I needed to know that,” says Cindy Cohen, Jaymi’s mother.
Then, Dr. Sherman returned to Cindy and Dana and escorted them through the ED, which was on lockdown. When Jaymi returned from X-ray, she was reunited with her parents.
Cindy and Dana stayed with Jaymi as she laid calmly on her belly texting friends that she was alright. Dr. Sherman and pediatric emergency room resident Sylvia Romm, MD, MPH, went carefully through each of the 40 to 50 dime-sized wounds scattered over both of Jaymi’s legs from her ankles to her thighs. The entire time they told Jaymi exactly what they were doing and answered every question from her parents.
“They kept reassuring us that she was going to be OK,” Cindy says. “As a mother, I needed to know that.” With time, the two doctors determined that the wounds would heal. They gave Jaymi stitches.
Throughout the hours the family spent at the hospital that day, social workers visited to see if Jaymi and her family wanted to talk or needed information. The FBI questioned Jaymi and confiscated her pants and shoes. Before being released that evening, she cried, realizing what she had survived.
Healing Wounds from the Boston Marathon Bombing
Jaymi’s scars and emotional wounds from the Boston Marathon bombing are healing. At first, Jaymi felt anxious at Tufts. Seeing students wearing backpacks made her worry about new explosions. When the FBI released images of the suspects, Jaymi picked herself out of the crowd. One of the alleged bombers had walked right behind her and set the backpack near her feet.
“I feel that Dr. Sherman came into our lives for a reason,” Cindy Cohen says. “Something very special happened that day when she was treating Jaymi. She was so compassionate. She was so reassuring. She was an expert at what she was doing medically, but was also caring and warm. She has kept in touch with Jaymi since that day and we know that this relationship will continue into the future.”
Some of Jaymi’s lacrosse teammates also suffered minor injuries. Other spectators standing near them that day were not as fortunate.
Later, Jaymi learned a woman she remembers had lost her leg. Jaymi has drawn courage from the hopeful victims she has met at Boston Marathon bombing survivor events. And, she has found solace in movement.
Jaymi says, “I always ran to stay in shape, to get faster and to be a better athlete. Now, I run to feel good about myself. And, I run for everyone who can’t.”
Jaymi says she wanted to share her story with the friends and supporters of MassGeneral Hospital for Children. “I’m so grateful to Mass General,” she says. “I hope that the story of the extraordinary care that I received inspires people to donate, so that Mass General can do even greater things in the future.”