On April 15, 2013, two bombs detonated near the finish line of the annual Boston Marathon killing three individuals and wounding several hundred others, including 16 who lost limbs. Disabled Sports USA (DSUSA) created the Boston Strong Adaptive Sports initiative to offer grants and access to events for marathon survivors with permanent physical disabilities.
Five years later, the Boston Strong Adaptive Sports Initiative, which has supported a dozen individuals, is still supporting survivors, including Roseann Sdoia who had to have her right leg amputated above the knee after the bombing.
Less than eight months after that tragic event, Sdoia joined Disabled Sports USA at the 2013 Ski Spectacular in Breckenridge, Colorado, which she describes as an amazing experience. “It was early on in my recovery, so it was an emotional experience for me in so many ways,” she said. “If I was going to try something, this is the best place to do it, given all the support and equipment that is provided.” She would return to Ski Spec in 2015 to try snowboarding with Reggie Showers.
She has tried a number of adaptive sports over the years. “Trying to find the right niche for me the past five years has been challenging,” she said. She is taking a yoga class, which she finds rejuvenating. “As an amputee, you don’t stretch as much so this has been good for my posture and back.” Sdoia also compliments the instructor at being very good about infusing adaptive methods for her. In addition, Sdoia is currently doing water aerobics. “You don’t have to wear a prosthesis in the pool, so it gives me some freedom,” she said.
Although Sdoia received a running prosthesis within a few months of bombing, she is just now getting into that activity. “I was not ready for it, mentally and physically,” she said. Early on, her residual limb had some fluctuation, including shrinkage and other challenges but now it has stabilized. She also had to spend time getting her muscles conditioned. “You really do need to learn how to walk before you can run,” she said.
One of Sdoia’s accomplishments was completing the Empire State Building Run-Up, the annual New York City event that has participants racing up the 86 flights of stairs (1,576 stairs in all). She learned about the event from her mentor and trained for it using the Bunker Hill Monument. In February 2017, she completed it with her husband, Mike, who happened to be one of the first responders to her the day of the bombing (they married in October 2017). “It took about an hour… it was more like a climb than a run up.”
Sdoia has four different prosthetic legs, including her everyday leg, a bike leg, a running leg (blade with mechanical knee, and what she calls her “dress up leg. She points out there is a significant different between above knee and below knee amputees with certain activities. “I’m jealous of below knee amputees,” she jokingly stated. “But sometimes I am not sure where my leg is always going. And there is a big difference in weight and versatility.”
Prior to 2013, Sdoia would run and also skied for fun. “I liked to enjoy life, so running was a way to stay healthy.” Nowadays, she doesn’t have a specific need to go down black diamond hills or anything but does want to be outside and enjoys nature. “I like to take it all in.”
Also before bombing, she struggled with the work/life balance. Now, it is more about a life/work balance. “I like trying new things and taking advantage of opportunities. I find things that give me joy in life and I want to help others.” She is doing some public speaking, working on doing some peer mentoring, and has started to substitute teach. She also published a book “Perfect Strangers: Friendship, Strength, and Recovery After Boston’s Worst Day” in March 2017. Like many in Boston, Sdoia went to the marathon for years as she often knew somebody in it. “It was my favorite day in the city,” she said. “It was a sign of Spring.”