April 18, 2013

Metal pierced leg, but Falmouth woman feels 'lucky'

By Eric Russell erussell@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

FALMOUTH – Sarah Girouard looks down at her right leg, which is encased in a white bandage and stabilized by a black foot-to-knee brace. Crutches are propped on the couch cushion next to her.

click image to enlarge

Northeastern University student Sarah Girouard, a 2010 graduate of Falmouth High School, was treated at Tufts Medical Center after being injured by the bombings at the Boston Marathon on Monday. Girouard's right leg was injured by shrapnel, but she is expected to recover in a few months.

Photo Courtesy of Sarah Girourd

The bandage covers fresh scars, where doctors at Tufts Medical Center cut her leg open to remove pieces of metal that lodged in her flesh. The crutches will stay with her for up to eight weeks.

Still, when Girouard, a 2010 Falmouth High School graduate and junior at Northeastern University, thinks about the three victims who died and the many others who suffered injuries much worse than hers in Monday's bombings at the Boston Marathon, she feels lucky.

"It's weird, it hasn't been that emotionally difficult," Girouard, 20, said from her parents' home in Falmouth on Thursday, one day after she was released from the hospital. "I was lucky I didn't actually see any of the horrific things that happened that you heard about. If I had, I probably would have been affected more. Watching now, it's like 'Wow, that's what I avoided.' "

Like so many who call Boston home, Girouard and her two roommates decided to spend the Patriot's Day holiday downtown.

"The marathon is just a huge event and it was gorgeous out, so we figured why not walk around?" she said. "We got lunch on Newbury Street and just kind of meandered over to the finish line to see the (runners).

"We were standing there and started to move closer to the finish line to find another friend in the crowd. I don't know why, but I was looking down and I just kind of felt this hot pop kind of hit my leg, and everything went blurry. Not blurry, but just kind of foggy from all the dust and smoke, and my ears were ringing -- that high-pitched white noise -- and then people started screaming."

Girouard had been hit by shrapnel from the first of two bombs that went off Monday afternoon. One piece of metal entered her leg below the knee and exited the other side, fracturing her tibia. Another piece, the size of a thumb, lodged in her ankle.

"I grabbed my roommate and tried to find the closest building that we could get cover under because we didn't know what was going on at that point," she said. "I think the first thing that registered was fireworks because it would never occur to me that it could have been an actual bomb. We made it to a building nearby. That's when I realized my leg was bleeding and I couldn't really walk that well."

The next 20 minutes, from the time Girouard was wounded until she was taken by ambulance to the hospital, were a blur. Two strangers carried her to a triage tent nearby, where she was laid on a cot. Emergency personnel labeled the injured who were pouring in: Red for those with the worst injuries. Girouard was labeled a yellow -- not critical but still wounded.

"I didn't know if I was cold or scared but I just tried to not look down," she said.

At the hospital, Girouard underwent surgery to remove any foreign objects or debris still lodged in her leg. Her father, Christopher, asked the doctors later if the family could keep the thumb-sized piece of shrapnel that had been in her ankle. They told him they were sorry, but the piece had to be turned over to the FBI.

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