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NH victims of Boston Marathon bombing: Struggles aren't over, but kind acts buoy them

Union Leader Correspondent

May 12. 2013 9:53PM

Martha Galvis of Nashua, left, seen at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital in Boston, had her hand shattered and leg severely hurt in the Boston Marathon bombings. After four weeks of multiple surgeries and hours of physical therapy, she has started taking steps with the aid of a walker. (COURTESY)

Four weeks after the Boston Marathon was transformed from a celebration into a tragedy by two bomb blasts, many Granite Staters who were at the finish line are now facing difficult physical, emotional and financial challenges.

Karen and Ron Brassard of Epsom were injured in the blast along with their daughter, Krystara, a student at Northeastern University in Boston. Karen said the family was standing only 10 feet away from one of the blasts. Shrapnel tore into her left ankle and right leg and blew away part of Ron's calf muscle while severing an artery. Krystara suffered an ankle injury.

Combined, Ron and Karen have already have had to endure five surgeries. Karen is scheduled for another one today to clean out an infection doctors recently discovered.

"It's frustrating, two steps forward, one step back ...," she said.

Four weeks after the blast, Karen Brassard said her family has good days and bad days.

"Our daughter has been amazing; she has been helping to take care of us. Fortunately her classes basically already ended, so she came home with us. She is our chauffeur, housemaid; she has been everything for us because we aren't supposed to be up doing anything," Karen Brassard said.

For Alvaro and Martha Galvis of Nashua, the Boston Marathon used to be a holiday. The pair, who hadn't missed a Boston Marathon in 35 years, are now struggling to recover after being wounded during the attack.

Standing about 20 feet away from one of the blasts, Alvaro Galvis took shrapnel hits to his back and leg, while his wife's hand was shattered and her leg seriously injured. While Alvaro is up and moving around, he said his mobility is nowhere near what it was. He added that he has been having some problems with memory loss, and that doctors have scheduled a brain MRI.

Martha Galvis will remain in a rehabilitation center in Boston for the foreseeable future as she undergoes multiple reconstructive surgeries on her hand and learns how to walk again. She is scheduled to undergo her fifth surgery on her hand later this month.

"My wife has taken a few steps, it is fantastic, it gave her a sense of independence — the first steps she took in 22 days," Alvaro Galvis said.

Concerns, support

Both Galvis and Brassard expressed concern that they and their spouses might not be able to return to work, and worry about their medical bills.

"Medically, I am not sure what we are paying out of pocket, and with our uncertain work situation, there are a lot of unknowns," Karen Brassard said.

Currently on disability, Alvaro Galvis said he is unsure when he would be able to return to work; his wife, Martha, will probably never be able to, he said.

Galvis and Brassard both said they have been buoyed by the response from Americans across the country, who have sent money, cards and good wishes.

"It is mind-boggling the outpouring of well wishes; we have gotten over 140 cards," Galvis said.

Galvis added that along with family, neighbors and friends, first lady Michelle Obama, Gov. Maggie Hassan and Nashua Mayor Donnalee Lozeau have all visited.

Karen Brassard said the FBI is helping to pay for her sister to fly in from Virginia and stay with her for a while.

"There has just been hundreds and hundreds of stories of outreach, and it has helped turn all that negative around; it helps put the negative so far in the background that you don't dwell on it and you don't think about it," she said.

Brassard said she was particularly touched by a donation and message her family received from a 12-year-old boy from Missouri.

"We cried as we read it ... He said he had been saving his allowance for something important and that this was it," Brassard said.

Brassard also said her husband, Ron, had a great time throwing out the first pitch before last Tuesday's Red Sox game at Fenway Park.

"He was nervous before going out there, but he threw a strike," she said, "and leaving the field, the crowd stood and it was just unbelievable and overwhelming how kind people are."

Both the Brassard and Galvis families are concerned about the psychological effects of the blasts.

"I am thinking about seeking help for post traumatic stress disorder," Karen Brassard said. "I am not sure what the rest of my family will do, but for me I feel I should."

She said she saw a therapist briefly while she was in the hospital. Now that she has been home, she has been finding it difficult to process what has happened, she said.

Alvaro Galvis said that he and his wife are currently seeing a therapist. He said he has difficulty with loud noises and crowds, and that he is prone to flashbacks.

University of New Hampshire athletic trainer Jon Dana has worked the Boston Marathon for 36 years. He was near the finish line when the bombs went off and said he is lucky he wasn't hurt.

"It was like a war zone, not that I have ever been in one, but I imagine that this is as close as it could get; it was a very strange reality being on a street in Boston," Dana said.

Dana said he rushed in to help any way he could, and found himself trying to soothe and encourage victims.

"I probably will always feel guilty that I didn't do more, but in a situation like that I don't know that anyone could have done enough," he said. "I haven't spoken to one athletic trainer who felt they did enough."

Dana said that he, too, is concerned he might be suffering from post traumatic stress disorder.

"The very first day back at UNH, I heard a loud noise from a dump truck and it scared the heck out of me, but now as long as I can identify the source of the noise, I am OK," Dana said.

Dana said he has no plans to stop working at the Boston Marathon.

"I just want to get back on the horse ... I am not going to bail just because it went bad once," he said.

New Hampshire Union Leader running columnist Andy Schachat wasn't physically hurt, but was close to the finish line working on a story about the marathon when the bombs exploded.

"It has been very emotional; I feel a tremendous amount of sadness," Schachat said.

He said that it has been good for him to talk about what happened and to share the stories of what he saw. Schachat added that it was cathartic for him to visit the site of the finish line about two weeks after the bombings.

"I was touched by the tribute that has been set up," he said.

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