Laughter, tears as Boston amputees recover, adapt

WASHINGTON – In Boston, Celeste Corcoran left the rehabilitation facility where she’s been healing since losing her legs in the marathon bombings.

On Capitol Hill, Jeffrey Brandt was sprinting from one meeting to another lobbying to make sure that the devices his company can offer to amputees remain within reach of Medicare patients.

Brandt’s company, Ability Prosthetics and Orthotics, has 11 offices including locations in Maryland and serves people who’ve been born with disabilities and those who’ve suffered trauma.

Brandt is not an amputee, but working alongside someone to get them the device that can change their life, to restore function, forms a strong relationship.

“I can’t walk in their shoes. But I laugh with them, I cry with them, I hug them,” he says.

And he delivers one consistent message: “Your life is not over. You have to figure out how to adapt. You can adapt.”

The victims of the Boston Marathon bombings are just weeks away from the trauma that changed their lives forever.

“These people will mourn the loss of their limb, if they haven’t, they need to,” Brandt says.

Once they accept where they are, they can begin to make progress. “Folks will be at various points of acceptance with what’s happened to them, and so it’s important for those around them to understand that,” he says.

Brandt says one of his Hagerstown orthotists is an amputee. Jeffrey Quelet’s relentlessly upbeat nature gives clients a shot of confidence as they go through the process of finding the right combination of fit and function that a prosthetic device can give them. Quelet’s sense of humor is also a great help.

And it’s Celeste Corcoran’s sense of humor that’s helping her, according to family member Alyssa Carter, who explained that Corcoran joked about getting back to her job as a stylist at a Boston salon — on wheels if need be.

In a recent video posted on You Tube, Corcoran’s humor was on display again. Two Marines, Cameron West and Gabriel Martinez, visited her in the hospital to offer encouragement. West told her that Martinez, a double amputee like her, was training for the ParaOlympics.

She replied she was never into running, because she used to get “the most horrible” shin splints. She stopped, looked at her legs and joked, “But hey, I don’t have shins anymore! I won’t get shin splints! I can do this!”

Brandt says that the ability to find humor and to see what’s possible will go a long way towards helping Corcoran to heal. And he has no doubt that today’s prosthetics will allow her to resume her job as a stylist at a Boston salon.

“She will thrive in that environment. She’s gonna impact the people that come to her salon and make them more beautiful,” he says. “I’m excited to follow her.”

Celeste and her daughter Sydney were injured in the Boston Marathon bombings and a fund was started to help them manage their medical expenses. Click here for more information.

You can see Corcoran’s inspirational visit from the Marines here:

WTOP’s Kate Ryan contributed to this report. Follow @kateryanWTOP and @WTOP on Twitter.

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