Ever since she lost a leg in the Boston Marathon bombing, Heather Abbott has devoted herself to giving others a leg up.
On Monday, she’ll accomplish that quite literally. The Heather Abbott Foundation will donate its first artificial limb to a 26-year-old woman from Walpole, Massachusetts, who said it will let her do something she’s never been able to do before: walk in heels.
Hillary Cohen, whose right leg was amputated nearly two years ago, will be fitted Monday with a custom-made leg provided through Abbott’s foundation.
“It will allow me to be able to be like any other girl. I’ll be able to put myself together more and feel more confident,” said Cohen, who works as a bone density technician at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston.
Abbott, who had part of her own leg amputated after suffering grievous injuries in the 2013 terrorist attacks at the marathon finish line, called it “heartwarming” to be able to help Cohen.
For Abbott, a basic artificial leg wasn’t enough to help her get her life back. She’s since been fitted with additional specialty prostheses that enable her to wear heels, run and swim.
In a very real sense, Abbott said, she feels Cohen’s pain.
“She was somebody I really wanted to help,” said Abbott, of Newport, Rhode Island. “I know how important it was to me to have those legs and feel feminine and do things other women could do. They allowed me to get back to my life the way that it was.”
Cohen’s leg was amputated below the knee in January 2014 because of complications from neurofibromatosis, a painful condition that causes tumors to form on nerve tissue.
Although she has one prosthetic limb, it’s not suitable for wearing high heels, running or doing other activities. Abbott’s foundation was established to help provide specialty devices so amputees can recover as much of their normal lives as possible.
They’re not cheap. A leg like the one Cohen is getting typically costs $70,000, and insurance companies often don’t cover anything they deem to be cosmetic or medically unnecessary.
In Cohen’s case, Next Step Bionics & Prosthetics of Newton, which is conducting Monday’s fitting, provided the leg to the foundation at a discount.
Cohen said she’s deeply grateful to get assistance from the Abbott Foundation — and thrilled that her new leg will let her walk in heels for the first time. Because her disease began at age 13, she’s never been able to wear them.
Eventually, she hopes to procure a leg that will let her resume running and chase her goal of completing a marathon — an achievement that, in a sense, would bring her full-circle with Abbott, her benefactor.
“I want to show people that just because I have a prosthetic doesn’t mean I have limitations,” Cohen said. “My life now is limitless.”
Next up for the Heather Abbott Foundation: providing a running leg to an 8-year-old Massachusetts girl who lost a limb in a lawnmower accident.
“It is going to change her life,” Abbott said.