Courtesy of the McMahon family
Ryan McMahon (middle) suffered fractures to her back and wrists when she fell off the VIP grandstand in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombings. She is flanked by her father, John, and her mother, Donna. She is seen taking her first steps after the attacks.
BOSTON – Nearly 20 people out of the more than 170 wounded in the Boston Marathon bombings were hurt so badly that they had to have one or two limbs amputated -- while another 50 other injured runners and spectators are still in the hospital a week after the blast.
But another group of hurt survivors are beginning the long roads to recovery at home, with hospitals releasing more people each day. Though they are leaving, they may spend months or more recovering from multiple broken bones, damage caused by shrapnel or painful ruptured eardrums.
Ryan McMahon, 33, is one of those survivors. Suffering from fractures to her back and wrists, she left the hospital on Monday a week after the attacks to embark on the next part of her journey to recovery, which will include physical therapy and possibly mental health support.
"I want my Boston back … I just want to see my town, you know, and like I feel like they stole it," she said through sobs. "I love this city. ... It just has a lot of heart."
But as eager as she is to get back to normal, McMahon was anxious about her release, too. “I actually don't know what's going to happen, so (I'm) just setting up all of the support."
"I know how lucky I am. … I am going to be fine,” she said. “It was just really hard, especially being in the ER and just seeing how many horrible injuries there were and just hoping that everyone is going to be okay and get through this."
Ryan's mother has watched the injured forge ahead in the hospital as she tended to her daughter.
"The strength that they have moving forward, it’s been really quite something to see. ... They're survivors," said Donna McMahon, a 57-year-old nanny who lives in western Massachusetts. "It's a real lesson … the human spirit and how you just, you know, fight back and go on."
Boston firefighter Jimmy Plourd talks about Victoria McGrath, 20, a victim he rescued at the Boston Marathon bombing, saying "she was scared" but she was "a brave girl." Kerry Sanders talks to Plourd, whom McGrath hopes to thank in person.
Ryan is one of those fighting back from her injuries, both emotional and physical.
Over the last week, she watched TV reports of the manhunt for the two suspects – Tamerlan Tsarnaev, who died in a gun battle with police and his younger brother Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, who was captured late Friday.
Ryan sent a lot of "angry texts” as the authorities searched for the pair — which isn't like her, she said.
"I'm still trying to understand all my feelings about this," she said.
She ended up in the hospital after watching the first blast go off directly across from where she was sitting with friends at the top of a VIP grandstand. The group nervously looked at each other and decided to get out.
As they did, the second explosion tore through the air and a frenzied exodus began from the riser.
Ryan looked under the bleachers and thought her best chance would be to climb down, but the thunderous shaking as people ran from the stands caused her to lose her hold and she was tossed into the air, landing on her back.
Though she also had a concussion, adrenaline gave her enough fuel to propel her through the streets, running, as she and her friends sought help.
"I definitely knew I hurt my back when I fell, but my friends said ‘we’ve got to get out of here,’ and that was the main thing," she said. "I just knew that ... if there was another blast I would be by far worse" off.
Kind strangers picked up the group in a cab and dropped them off at the hospital, where Ryan was among the first to arrive and had a front-row seat to see other patients rolling into the emergency room.
Ryan had surgery on her right wrist, which was seriously damaged and is now tucked in a cast, and has braces on her other wrist and her back. Doctors have said it could take six months to a year to recover, but she can walk.
“She came out of the surgery fighting, feisty. She was a big sister bossing her brothers around,” said her dad, John McMahon, 58, who works in sales.
Though they know she has a long journey ahead, her release was “awesome,” Donna said.
As for Ryan, she has some plans for this time next year: She intends to run in her first Boston Marathon.