Health

Marathon bomb victim gets new leg for high heels

WARWICK, R.I. (AP) — Heather Abbott rarely wore flats before she became one of the many people to lose a leg in the Boston Marathon bombings. She calls herself a "professional heel-wearer" and preferred heels that reached the towering height of 4 inches.

On Thursday, she showed off a new prosthetic that will help her reclaim a little bit of her personal style: a "high-definition" realistic silicone leg that can be worn with high heels. To showcase it, she broke out a pair of black leather Nine West shoes with peep-toed 4-inch spiked heels that displayed painted red nails on both feet. It is almost impossible to tell just by looking that the prosthetic is not real.

"I can't believe how much it looks like a real foot," Abbott said. Abbott, 38, of Newport, was going in to the Forum restaurant in Boston with friends on April 15 when one of two bombs went off a short distance away. Her left leg was badly hurt. She had to make the difficult decision to amputate it below the knee.

"One of my biggest concerns was, what it was going to look like," she said on Thursday. Then she met a woman at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston who had a similar leg and could wear high heels. "That's what made me know it was going to be OK," she said.

Abbott got her first prosthetic leg in June, and has also gotten prosthetics for running and for going in the ocean so she can resume her hobby of paddle boarding. She got the high-heeled prosthetic about a week ago from Next Step Bionics and Prosthetics, a Manchester, N.H.-based company with offices in Warwick and Newton, Mass. It treats seven of the people who lost legs in the bombing, its president, Matthew Albuquerque, said.

Next Step built the interior of the prosthetic; the shape is a mirror image of Abbott's right leg and foot. The silicone cover was constructed by the British company Dorset, which matched the color to Abbott's skin and added details such as freckles. Abbott noted it even looks like it has a little bit of razor burn. The foot can even be given a pedicure.

The cover cost $15,000, while the cost of the inside of the leg can cost anywhere from $8,000 to $10,000, Albuquerque said. Abbott's prosthetic was covered by insurance, but he said that doesn't always happen.

"Having a leg look like a leg sounds like something that should be very basic, but it's not," Albuquerque said. Abbott said she has felt self-conscious wearing skirts because her other prosthetics don't look real. But on Thursday she was wearing a skirt that hit just below the knee.

Albuquerque said most people would not be able to walk in heels after just a few months with a prosthetic, but he calls Abbott determined. The company also normally would not make a prosthetic for a 4-inch heel — usually at most two or three inches — but that's what Abbott wanted.

She said after just a week with the new leg, she's still re-learning how to walk in heels. "I'll get there," she said. "Eventually."

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