OLD ORCHARD BEACH – Last Wednesday, Boston Marathon bombing survivor Karen Rand picked up her new artificial leg, more than two months after she lost her left leg — and a good friend — in the blast.
“On Thursday I tried to throw it downstairs,” said Rand, who grew up in Westbrook.
On Saturday she took a walk in a park. On Sunday, surrounded by friends and well-wishers at a fundraiser at The Brunswick, a bar in the heart of Old Orchard Beach, she said she knew she would eventually manage.
“I know I am going to be OK, but it is a struggle,” Rand said.
The fundraiser was organized by residents of Old Orchard Beach, where an effort is under way to build Rand — the mother of two sons, Steve, 33, and Andrew, 30, who live in Maine — a handicapped-accessible home on land in the town that has already been donated.
Rand, 52, of Somerville, Mass., was standing near the finish line when the bomb went off on April 15, killing three people and injuring 183, nearly a dozen of whom lost limbs.
Her good friend Krystle Campbell, 29, of Arlington, Mass., was killed in the blast while the man standing next to Rand lost both of his legs.
Rand, who has tried to keep a low profile since the tragedy, has found herself returning to Maine regularly during her recuperation.
“I am a Maine girl. All my family is here. I thought it would be a good therapy to be someplace that makes me happy,” she said.
Sunday was the first time she agreed to be interviewed about her ordeal.
Rand is the administrative assistant to chef Jasper White and his partner, who run the Summer Shack restaurants in Massachusetts, where she has lived for the past decade.
She said she was at the finish line with Campbell on Patriot’s Day to watch Rand’s boyfriend, Kevin McWatters, who was about a mile away when the bomb went off.
Rand said she remembers holding Campbell’s hand after the blast, aware that Campbell was not conscious.
“I miss my smiley friend. She just had that brave attitude,” Rand said.
She said the two struck up a friendship when they both worked at the same restaurant.
Rand said the first two weeks after the bombing went by in a blur. She didn’t know that her family spent 12 hours trying to find her in Boston.
Her brother, Dan Engelhardt of Scarborough, whom she has been visiting regularly since the bombing, said he will never forget those tense hours searching for his sister.
“As soon as I found out about the bombing, I called her son Steve in Windham, and we got to Boston in an hour and 20 minutes,” Engelhardt said.
They finally tracked her down at Massachusetts General Hospital, where later she was visited by President Obama. She said there are pictures of her smiling, but she was not really processing events.
She said everyone was so upbeat at first about the technological advances that have benefited amputees.
“They built us up to think it was going to be easy,” Rand said.
But the reality, she said, is that recovery is much more difficult and expensive than what she originally thought.
She is now using a temporary artificial leg, which is much clunkier than the top-of-the-line, $25,000 permanent model for which insurance will cover only half the cost, Rand said. She has also learned the prosthesis must be replaced about every three years,
Still, she said, she is determined to get back to work and reclaim her life. She was thrilled to discover that she can still swim and does laps in her brother’s Scarborough pool. But she misses the fact that she can no longer dash into the waves at Old Orchard Beach as she once did.
Rand said she is amazed by the donations and generosity of well-wishers, such as Mal Mango of Old Orchard Beach, who coordinated Sunday’s event, and Tony Lacassse, who opened his bar to the fundraiser.
“Everybody comes together for something like this,” Mango said.
Rand said she will continue to cry for Campbell. She said she is trying to learn to be patient about her physical therapy. She said she avoids crowds and is eager to regain a sense of anonymity — and appreciates Mainers’ reserve and respect for privacy.
“Maine is a sanctuary for me,” she said.
Beth Quimby can be contacted at 791-6363 or at: