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Victims’ Voices: the impact of a Traumatic Brain Injury

This report is part of AOAV’s research on the bombing at the Boston Marathon in 2013. The full report, ‘Blood on the Streets of Boston’, can be read here. The main findings and summary can be seen here. The report considered the mental health support offered to survivors and witnesses, for more on this see here, as well as the services that were offered, see here. As part of the report it AOAV also researched the medical care and financial support provided to survivors – this report can be read here – and the health impacts the bombing had – here. It was also important to consider the ‘Victims’ Voices’, from those who survived the attack. To read these please go here, and here.

Ellen Sexton-Rogers was standing at the finish line of the Boston Marathon on 15 April 2013 when the first of two IEDs exploded beside her. She sustained a physical injury to her arm, and is suffering from a Traumatic Brain Injury which, 18 months after the bombing, still continually affects her life.

“My husband, my daughter Vanessa, and I were there waiting for my step-daughter to finish running the marathon and I turned to him and said “get the camera ready.” Just as I was saying that the bomb exploded. He was thrown seven feet and I was thrown towards him. I don’t remember anything after that except looking up and being unable to see Vanessa. We couldn’t find her for 10 minutes.

We ran around the corner. I had blood from the waist down. I had blood in my shoe. A lady took us under her wing and took us to a hotel where a driver drove us over the bridge where we left our car so we could get home. I’m screaming on the bridge, thinking the bridge is going to be next. It was horrible.

I got home and was completely panic stricken. My head felt like it was going to explode. We went to the hospital and I just kept saying to them; “just give me something so that I can forget what I saw and stop this head pain so that I can sleep.”

I had surgery on my arm and started to go to counselling. My upper arm is numb and I still have nerve pain all the way down to my thumb. Six months after the bombing someone from the Massachusetts Office of Victim Assistance came to see me and recognised that I was suffering from something more severe than Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Ever since then I have needed to see a psychologist and a brain doctor every week, as well as going to physical therapy and speech therapy, but I’m not getting anywhere.

I’m in a world right now where I have no control of what’s going to happen to me. There’s nothing you can put on my brain to put it back to the way it was so that I can go back to work. I lost my job, my business, my marriage and my financial stability. Just today I got confused paying for my parking and got lost walking into the building. I couldn’t find where I had parked the car when I left. This happens all the time, and I know people look and go “oh this one’s really wacky, she doesn’t know what she’s doing.”

Now I’m always ready for something bad to happen. I want people to know how devastating a Traumatic Brain Injury is and how devastating this whole occurrence was to my entire life, every aspect of it. It has had a major effect, a very long lasting shock.”

To read AOAV’s full report on the support provided to the victims of the 2013 Boston bombing, please read Blood on the Streets of Boston.’ 

(Told to Jane Hunter)


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