May 05. 2013 10:21PM

In Nashua, compassion in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombing

Union Leader Correspondent

Alvaro Galvis, left, said a visit from first lady Michelle Obama helped lift the spirits of his family while he and his wife recover from the injuries they received in the Boston Marathon bombing. (COURTESY)

BOSTON - After witnessing the worst humanity has to offer during the Boston Marathon bombing, Alvaro and Martha Galvis have been experiencing the best of humanity, as citizens from across the country have gladly offered financial and emotional support to the longtime Nashua residents as they set out on the long road to recovery.

Alvaro, 63, and Martha, 60, have lived in Nashua for more than 25 years and haven't missed a Boston Marathon in 35 years. The marathon was considered a holiday in the Galvis family, as both Martha and Alvaro would take off from work just to make sure they could attend.

"We were about 20 feet from finish line when the detonation happened, a lot of shrapnel flew our way, I got hit in the back of my right leg. My wife was severely injured in her left hand and left leg. She lost a finger," Alvaro said.

Alvaro said Martha has a long road to recovery, as she has had multiple reconstructive surgeries on her hand and faces many more, along with the challenge of learning how to walk again. Martha will remain in a rehabilitation center in Boston for the foreseeable future, and Alvaro has been staying in a nearby hotel to be near his wife.

Along with their physical injuries, Alvaro said both he and his wife have been seeing therapists to deal with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

"I have flashbacks all the time," Alvaro said, "I don't like being in crowds anymore, and noises can set me off. Two things we always did as a family in Boston was the Fourth of July celebration and the marathon. Now I just think we will watch them on TV."

The couple's daughter Erika said that the loss of these two family events is very sad for her and her three siblings. "For my family, it's supposed to be a time of celebration, something we look forward to every year."

Erika, speaking from her home in Miami, said her parents physical and emotional pain is being compounded by mounting medical bills. To help their parents, Erika and her siblings have set up the Galvis Fund, an online fundraising page at

"These are immediate and difficult costs for our family, so we decided to set up the fund. Any little amount will help our family greatly. We thought this would be the best way to set it up because we need the help, frankly," Erika said.

With a goal of raising $500,000, the fund has already raised more than $40,000. Alvaro said that the fact that more than 450 people donated from across the country, along with all the support they have received from family, friends, co-workers and complete strangers, has helped maintain his faith in the inherent goodness of humanity.

"It's unbelievable. It shows that people have good heart," Alvaro said.

Along with visits from family and friends, Alvaro said that first lady Michelle Obama visited the pair in the hospital.

"It was very uplifting," he said, "she was very sincere, very warm and very nice."

With the injuries Martha sustained, Alvaro said that it is unlikely she will ever be able to return to her job at the Adult Learning Center ever again and that he is currently on disability from his job at Harvard Pilgrim Health Care.

Despite having insurance, Alvaro said he is still unsure how much it will cover, and with expensive procedures, such as the microsurgery his wife endured to reattach nerve endings in her leg, and expensive physical therapy, the bills are starting to pile up.

"I was planning on retiring in three years," Alvaro said.

Still, with all these challenges, Erika said her family has been buoyed by the emotional and financial support they have received.

"The city of Nashua has been helping out so much. Our neighbors have been great. It's like the entire state of New Hampshire is worried about their own. People are so warm and kind-hearted, and we appreciate everything," she said.