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Musings: Blog of the JAAPA Editorial Board
Monday, June 30, 2014
Paying it forward: heroines, sung and unsung
Brian T. Maurer, PA-C

At our IMPACT 2014 conference in Boston, I had the opportunity to attend the PA Foundation’s PAramount awards dinner.
 
This year’s guest speaker was Heather Abbott, a survivor of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings.
One year ago, Ms. Abbott traveled to Boston with a cohort of friends to take in a Red Sox game at Fenway Park. Afterwards her party ambled over to the finish line of the marathon to await the first runners. Ms. Abbott heard the deafening bang of the first explosion and witnessed the initial panic of the bystanders. Twelve seconds later the force from the second bomb blew her back through the doors of the restaurant immediately behind her.
 
Conscious of a searing pain in her left leg, she cried out for help as panicked spectators dashed dodging tables to the back of the building. Thankfully, one couple stopped to attend her and carry her to an ambulance at the scene.
 
Despite three separate surgeries, doctors were unable to salvage Ms. Abbott's damaged leg. Reluctantly, she consented to a below-the-knee amputation.
 
Over the course of the past year Ms. Abbott healed from her surgery and learned how to walk again, first with crutches and later with a prosthesis. She now has a collection of four prosthetic legs: one for everyday activities, a waterproof one for swimming, one for running, and one for wearing high heels. Eventually, she elected to become a peer counselor, offering guidance and support to other amputees.
 
Ms. Abbott emphasized three key points on her road to recovery:
• accept that which cannot be changed
• seek support from others during the recovery period
• lend assistance and support to others in similar circumstances by “paying it forward.”
 
Before listening to Ms. Abbott’s poignant presentation, in casual conversation over dinner I learned that the woman seated next to me, a fellow PA, had recently spent a year in rehab after surgery for a brain tumor.
 
She first suspected something was up when she developed subtle left-sided weakness and poor coordination of her hand and leg. Timely intervention saved her life. Thankfully, the tumor was benign. She has now returned to clinical practice and is poised to mentor PAs in a new postgraduate training program.
 
Like Ms. Abbott, this woman has elected to pay it forward through continued service to her fellow human beings.
 
Two heroines: one sung, the other unsung. The unsung one seated by my side didn't seem to mind. At the conclusion of Ms. Abbott's talk she applauded just as enthusiastically and just as long as everyone else in the room.
 
Brian T. Maurer practices at Pediatric Walk-In Care in Enfield, Conn He is the author of Patients Are a Virtue and blogs at http://briantmaurer.wordpress.com The views expressed in this blog post are those of the author and may not reflect AAPA policies.
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