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Boston bombing amputee steps forward in recovery with new legs

Rock Center

Boston Marathon bombing survivor and double amputee Celeste Corcoran stood three inches taller as she hugged her loved ones at eye level again, after receiving her prosthetic legs this week. 

“It takes a lot of concentration,” said Corcoran of her prosthetic limbs. “I’m still at the stage where sometimes, you know, white-knuckling the walker.  I’m trying to get better with that, but the bottom of my legs, both of my legs, just get very sore and they just hurt when I’ve done it for a while.”

Corcoran, whose 18-year-old daughter Sydney was also injured in the April 15 terrorist attack, has come to convey “Boston Strong” in her many appearances on Rock Center. While determined and optimistic, the 47-year-old admitted that she is still grieving the loss of her legs even while she learns to walk on new ones. Corcoran said they feel like stilts.

“ ‘Boston Strong’ is fantastic and everybody pulling together in a time when everybody needed to was what everybody needed, you know.  But for the people who are still damaged,” said Corcoran through tears.  “It’s just not that easy to stay ‘Boston Strong,’ you know.”


NBC News

Celeste Corcoran, injured in the Boston Marathon bombings, learns how to put on her new prosthetic legs.

Corcoran received her prosthetics on June 17 and took some of her first steps on June 19 at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital. Two days into learning how to walk on them, she was able to ditch her walker for short stretches. She said her recovery has been grueling and painful, but she’s determined to get to the beach, drive a car and return to her work as a hairstylist.  Her station at the salon remains open and ready for her return.

“I don’t want it to be like, you know, like a shrine or something,” Corcoran told Rock Center’s Kate Snow. “Doing people’s hair, that’s what I love to do.”

Corcoran wants walking to once again be second nature and her family believes she will get there.

“She’s so tenacious,” said Corcoran’s daughter Sydney.

“The progress, it’s just amazing and every day, we do take  a step forward. Some days, we take some steps back, but we always end up forward,” said Celeste Corcoran’s sister, Carmen Acabbo.

Sydney and Celeste Corcoran were cheering on Acabbo at the marathon when the bombs exploded on Boylston Street. Sydney suffered shrapnel wounds to her legs, which severed her femoral artery. She recovered enough to attend her high school prom, where she was named prom queen and walked across the stage sans crutches to receive her diploma.

While Sydney’s recovery has wowed her family, the teenager said she is in awe of her mom. She said that watching her mom walk again is “amazing.”

“Before she left, I told her, like, don’t be surprised if all you can do is just shuffle a little bit and she just looked at me.  She’s like, ‘No, I’m going to walk.’ I was like, ‘Ok, mom.’ And then we got here and she was walking back and forth,” said Sydney of her mom’s first days in prosthetics.  “It’s like, OK, I’ll just shut up now.  Like, she knows what she’s doing.  She’s doing fantastic and it’s so great to see she proved me wrong.”

NBC News

From left to right: Carmen Acabbo, Celeste Corcoran and Sydney Corcoran.

Celeste Corcoran’s “grown” 3 inches for now with her new legs, turning her 5’4 frame into 5’7, but she’s chosen to keep the same shoe size.

“I did, because Sydney and I both have the same shoe size.  So, we swap shoes.  So, I didn’t want to lose that either,” Corcoran said.  

Editor’s Note: Kate Snow’s full report on the Corcoran family’s recovery airs Friday, June 21 at 10pm/9CDT on NBC’s Rock Center with Brian Williams.


More from Rock Center on the Corcoran family's recovery:

Boston amputees need ‘all our energy to heal’

Boston bombing victims determined at rehab

Mom, daughter persevere together after Boston bombings