Adrianne Haslet-Davis’ life as a dancer was
shattered last year at the Boston Marathon bombings. She and her husband Adam, who had just returned from a tour in Afghanistan with the Air Force, were steps away from the second blast.
“I felt the direct impact and it immediately blew off (part of) my left foot,” she said.
Before Haslet-Davis could even see the damage the bomb had done, her husband’s reaction confirmed her fears.
“I remember him picking up my foot and looking and just screaming a scream that you never want to hear a loved one scream,” she recalled.
Adam Davis also sustained injuries — shrapnel
wounds to both legs were causing blood loss — but he
knew it was his wife’s much more traumatic injury that could quickly kill her.
“I took my belt off and put it around Adrianne’s leg. At
that point I remember thinking this is very ironic. For
4½ months, I had a real tourniquet on my arm every
day … in Afghanistan,” he said. “When did I need it?
Back at home.”
Minutes later, first responders rushed Haslet-Davis
into an ambulance and raced to Boston Medical
Center. While her life was saved by the heroic actions
of her husband, emergency personnel and doctors, the
damage to her foot was so severe that surgeons had no
choice but to amputate.
She woke up the next day in the hospital in a haze,
with phantom pains in her foot. She believed it had been saved. Her mother had to deliver the heart-breaking news.
“She looked at me and said, ‘Adrianne, you don’t have
a foot. Your foot is gone,’ ” she said. “I just lost it. It
was really hard to hear.”
The loss of a limb would be agonizing for anyone but for Haslet-Davis, it was the end of her way of life. She is an award-winning ballroom dancer whose passion for dance is contagious.
“Dancing is the one thing I do that when I do it, I
don’t feel like I should be doing anything else ever. I feel so free,” she said. Her dream was to continue teaching ballroom dancing in Boston and competing in higher levels of dance tournaments across the country.
“When she dances, I see her glow. I see her light up … then all of a sudden, (to) have it removed in a split second is devastating,” said
Adam Davis. “I knew that there was a chance that she’d never dance again.”
‘I thought everybody had a bomb’
From the early days of her recovery, Haslet-Davis was defiant towards her new life as an amputee. Speaking to CNN’s Anderson
Cooper just a week after the bombings , she vowed that she would dance again.
“I feel like somebody has come along and said, ‘Oh,
we’re not going to let you do that anymore,’ ” she said.
“I’m going to prove them wrong.”
Haslet-Davis agreed to allow CNN to follow her
journey to recovery and film her everyday life over the
past year. She details her recovery on CNN’s “The
Survivor Diaries” on April 8 at 10 p.m. ET .
Her video diaries portray a raw, honest and at times
heart-breaking picture of a woman battling extreme
physical and emotional challenges.
“The reality of knowing that someone tried to kill you
and letting that sink in … it’s just been really difficult,”
she said in one video. “I have gone through many, many stages, of not only PTSD, but also of mourning the loss of my leg,” she said. “I remember waking up many mornings and just bawling and just crying and just being
The mental scars, especially in the early months, were
never far from the surface. “Navigating the streets of
Boston for the first time, it was really tough,” said
Haslet-Davis. “I thought everybody had a bomb. I
mean I hate even saying things like that out loud
because it sounds crazy but … I had horrible anxiety.”
That’s evident in one video that shows Haslet-Davis’
reaction to a fireworks show outside the couple’s
apartment. “I thought we were going to die,” she said.
“I hit the floor immediately and put my hands over my
head and started screaming and crying and called 911.”
Beyond the anguish she battled mentally, the physical
challenges of walking and eventually dancing again were extreme. “I was very uneducated about prosthetics and.it was a huge surprise and complete, not only disappointment, but devastation that I couldn’t just put on a prosthetic and just walk and go. I didn’t know it would be so incredibly painful,” she said.
It would be months of intense physical therapy before Haslet-Davis trusted her leg enough to try dancing again. Her muscle memory from dancing as many as 60 hours a week before her amputation was still
there, but her prosthetic didn’t respond as her natural leg had. Unlike the repetitive motion of walking or running, the complicated and varied movements of ballroom dancing are nearly impossible on a standard prosthetic.
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