The 2013 Boston Marathon was the first time that AmyBeth Bourgault of Brookline, Massachusetts couldn’t join her parents, Mike and Beth Bourgault, for their annual tradition of watching at the finish line together. They had just told her in a phone call what a wonderful day they were having—great weather, a ride on the Swan Boats and they had found a perfect spot in front of Marathon Sports.
Forty minutes later, her brother Evan called her in a panic about the bombings. Turning on the television, all she could see was a sidewalk awash in red and no one in sight. “I think they are dead,” she told her brother.
In the chaos, her parents were taken to separate hospitals. But finally an EMT in the ambulance taking her dad to Massachusetts General Hospital answered her dad’s cellphone. He fared better than her mom and had blistering burns, cuts, bruises and a blown eardrum.
The Forefront of Emergency Response
Her mother has had to fight from minute one, however, says AmyBeth. Her left calf was blown off by the bomb and she’s still struggling to save her leg. She has undergone numerous surgeries, most recently nerve replacements to ease the constant, excruciating pain she endures.
AmyBeth is running in the 2015 Boston Marathon with Mass General’s Emergency Response team to honor and thank everyone who took care of her parents and the other survivors on that day Boston and her family will never forget.
“Mass General was at the forefront of the response that day and I want to be part of helping them to build on their disaster preparedness,” AmyBeth explains. “People think of the show ‘E.R.’ and have no idea how much more goes into responding to disasters like this.”
Thanks to John Hancock, Mass General was able to obtain charity bib numbers for 10 runners in the 1998 Boston Marathon. The MGH kids’ cancer marathon team has been participating in the event ever since. Last year, Mass General was able to create the new Emergency Response team when the Boston Athletic Association awarded the hospital an extra 40 guaranteed bibs as a thank you for caring for bombing victims. Thanks to John Hancock, Mass General is thrilled to field this team again this year and hopes to have runners helping to raise critical funds for Emergency Response through the Boston Marathon for years to come.
The MGH Team is also fortunate to have 20 runners participating in the Miles for Mass General Program for the 2015 Boston Marathon. These individuals are running to support Cystic Fibrosis, Pediatric Palliative Care, the Lurie Center and the MIND Huntington’s Disease Research.
Running to Heal
A fitness buff, AmyBeth and her mom used to run five or six miles together. As an undergraduate at Boston University, AmyBeth ran numerous marathons, but has not in the past 10 years. What happened on marathon day last year on the one-year bombing anniversary changed that, however.
A nanny who cares for two young boys, AmyBeth took the day off. She had spent the year since the bombings focused on caring for her parents. She knew she needed to deal with her own healing, and wasn’t sure how she would feel that day. Perhaps she would need to sit alone and cry.
But instead, she woke up at 8 a.m., put on her sneakers and ran out of the Brookline townhouse, where she lives with her fiancé Kevin Smith and his son, Donato. She kept running for almost four hours, along the race route to the finish line. It was hours before the official racers would get there, but people were already lined up and cheered her on. She called Kevin to come pick her up, and kept running until she met him.
Everyone Wants to Help
Like the quote from the “Forrest Gump” movie, she says, “I just felt like running.”
With snowstorm after snowstorm, it’s been a difficult winter to train. “I can handle rain, snow and cold weather, but the streets aren’t always safe,” she says with an infectious enthusiasm. “I just hope the snow is gone by marathon day!”
Her family has found healing and inspiration through the various events sponsored for survivors. At one, her mother and her first responder instantly recognized each other and hugged. “She would have bled to death without him,” AmyBeth says gratefully. “Incredibly, these people who suffered all sorts of injuries seemed happy despite what they had gone through.”
There are people from all over the country on the Mass General Emergency Response team, including one from California, AmyBeth says. “Everyone knows Mass General for having the best care and research and wants to help.”
The Boston Marathon Tradition
Loud noises and crowds are extremely difficult for her mom. But marathon day, her parents will be there to cheer her on. They will come to the start and move along the course, though they’re not sure they can handle the finish line. No matter, because the family tradition of attending the Boston Marathon together will now continue.