Amputee Veterans Show Off Carbon Legs to Boston Survivors

BOSTON (Bloomberg News) -

B.J. Ganem lost a leg to a roadside bomb in Iraq while serving in the Marines. Bobby Donnelly lost his after a high-altitude parachute jump.

When the explosions went off in Boston last week, ripping through the crowd and injuring more than 260 people, the two ex-soldiers and three other veterans quickly flew to Boston to meet with the victims who lost limbs. Their goal: To bring a message of hope to the survivors, showing them how active they could be despite their injuries, Ganem said in an interview.

Ganem, 36, is an endurance athlete who enjoys dancing  using Microsoft Corp.’s motion-activated technology, he said. Donnelly, 30, competes in triathlons. They each own about a half-dozen artificial legs, some of which they showed off for the amputation victims at Boston Medical Center.

Joe Blansfield, a nurse practitioner at Boston Medical Center’s trauma practice who is also an Army reserve colonel and served in Iraq, said the two veterans made a strong impression on the patients they visited.

“When they got to the area where the patients were, it was magic,” Blansfield said in a telephone interview. “The message is that ‘Hey, it’s going to be all right. Life goes on.’ These guys were even saying they’re doing things now that they didn’t do before they were injured and lost a limb.”

It also gave patients a chance to see what prosthetic technology can do with sport- and mobility-focused limbs made of carbon fiber and titanium, he said.

A week after the attack, 48 people were still hospitalized citywide, according to figures provided Monday. At least 13 survivors lost a limb, including some who had multiple amputations, said the hospitals, which include Brigham & Women’s Hospital, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Tufts Medical Center, and MGH.

The next phase for the Boston victims will be temporary prostheses, which can be fitted two to three months after the injury,  followed by permanent ones about a year later, said Simona Manasian, a rehabilitation doctor at Boston Medical.