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Friday, April 18, 2014

Adrianne Haslet-Davis Becomes Advocate For Amputees

Adrianne Haslet-Davis dances a rumba with with her partner, professional dancer Christian Lightner, on stage at her TED Talk with Hugh Herr, March 19, 2014. (James Duncan Davidson/TED)

Adrianne Haslet-Davis dances a rumba with with her partner, professional dancer Christian Lightner, on stage at her TED Talk with Hugh Herr, March 19, 2014. (James Duncan Davidson/TED)

We first met Adrianne Haslet-Davis last year, in the days after the Boston Marathon bombing. She is the ballroom dancer whose leg was injured in the blast.

Adrianne Haslet-Davis, left, is pictured with emergency physician Dr. Ron Medzon at Boston Medical Center. (Courtesy: Haslet-Davis family)

Adrianne Haslet-Davis, left, is pictured with emergency physician Dr. Ron Medzon at Boston Medical Center. (Courtesy: Haslet-Davis family)

The day of the bombing, she begged her emergency room physician, Dr. Ron Medzon, to save it. The team at Boston Medical Center was unable to fulfill that wish, but Adrianne is still determined to return to her dancing career.

She now has a prosthetic and has become an advocate for amputees, especially young women. She has also gained national recognition, and is expected to be on an upcoming season of “Dancing with the Stars.”

Adrianne tells Here & Now’s Robin Young about her struggles from the past year and her adjustments, like the first time she dreamed of herself walking with a prosthetic — perhaps a sign that her life has moved on.

On Monday, she will be cheering on her twin brothers, who will run the Boston Marathon in her name.

Interview Highlights: Adrianne Haslet-Davis

On how she’s feeling approaching Monday’s Boston Marathon

Timothy Haslet and Adrianne Haslet-Davis are pictured in Adrianne's apartment on April 17, 2014. (Robin Young/Here & Now)

Timothy Haslet (left) and his twin brother David will run this year’s Boston Marathon for their sister, Adrianne Haslet-Davis (right). They’re pictured on April 17, 2014. (Robin Young/Here & Now)

“It’s tough, you know. It’s really tough. I physically feel uneasy. Just – it’s hard to think that it’s been a year. I don’t think I’m scared of the marathon. I think it’s just I’m nervous to not know what kind of emotional state I’ll be in at that time. I just want to feel safe and I want the city to feel safe and comfortable and to go out and show support like they did during the Red Sox parade and pack the streets like 70 deep. It was so loud and I was cheering for the Red Sox but I was mostly cheering for the people that were cheering.”

On how her husband Adam Davis is doing

“He’s doing well. You know, we both take it day by day. As much as it’s easy to see that I have lost my limb, he has suffered tremendously as well. He has constant ringing in his ears and that can drive a person crazy, and he’s coping as beautifully as you possibly could in that situation. He also doesn’t have feeling in his left foot, from the ankle forward. So it’s tough, you know, he’s limping by the end of the day and trying to stay strong for both of us.”

On advocating for other amputees, especially girls

Adrianne Haslet-Davis and her husband, Air Force Capt. Adam Davis, are pictured at Boston Medical Center, where they're recovering from serious injuries from the Boston Marathon bombings. (Robin Young/Here & Now)

Adrianne Haslet-Davis and her husband, Air Force Capt. Adam Davis, are pictured at Boston Medical Center, where they’re recovering from serious injuries from the Boston Marathon bombings. (Robin Young/Here & Now)

“I certainly want to use my voice for good and especially young girls that are out there facing this and feeling alone. And there’s a large part of your body that feels completely broken. I remember feeling like my body was so foreign to me — at the age of 32, which is something you’ve gotten used to by then. I felt like I had a hand growing out of my forehead. And just felt so different from every person on the planet, and that is a horrible feeling.”

On dreams and recovery

“I had my first dream as an amputee about two and a half months ago, actually. And I went into my therapist and he said, ‘Oh my gosh, wait, you said you were an amputee.’ And I said yes, and he said ‘that is incredible, your subconscious believes you’re an amputee – that usually doesn’t happen for the first five years.’ So I thought that that was really interesting and I have had dreams since then that I am an amputee — both that I have both limbs and that I am an amputee. But I was very proud of myself that that is already happening within the first year. So he was shocked. And I like to be an overachiever when it comes to recovery, so I was happy that happened.”

Guests

  • Adrianne Haslet-Davis, dancer who lost a leg in the Boston Marathon bombing.
  • Timothy Haslet, brother of Adrianne Haslet-Davis.

Transcript

ROBIN YOUNG, HOST:

And now we're going to visit with a favorite guest and her brother, Timothy, who's come to run for her in the Boston Marathon on Monday. Let's back up. This week, we've been marking the one year anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombings, hearing from people like Dr. Ron Medzon of Boston Medical Center, who spoke to us the day after the bombings last year about a survivor who came through his emergency room.

RON MEDZON: One of the women I was talking with, who also had a really bad leg injury, was telling me that she's a competitive dancer. And, you know, I just felt super-horrible. And, I mean, there are no words.

ADRIANNE HASLET-DAVIS: I remember telling a lot of doctors that I was a ballroom dancer and that it was extremely important that I kept my foot, that I could still feel every toe and move every toe.

YOUNG: And then ultimately what happened?

HASLET-DAVIS: Oh, I woke up, and I didn't have a foot anymore.

How are you?

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Good. It's so cold; come on in.

HASLET-DAVIS: It's freezing.

YOUNG: That young woman was Adrianne Haslet-Davis, a professional ballroom dancer.

HASLET-DAVIS: It's so good to see you. The last time I saw you, I wasn't even - I didn't even have a leg yet, right?

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Right, right, right.

YOUNG: Last year, she invited us to her hospital room just after the bombings. We went to her apartment building last night. Anything been going on?

HASLET-DAVIS: Oh, that's kind of a loaded question, yes, just a couple things.

YOUNG: Adrianne has become a familiar face, pledging to dance again on "Dancing with the Stars."

HASLET-DAVIS: When I heard from "Dancing with the Stars," I was so incredibly nervous, excited, happy. I just couldn't believe it.

YOUNG: And she's now apparently Anderson Cooper's new dance instructor on CNN.

HASLET-DAVIS: I feel like...

ANDERSON COOPER: I don't. I stay rock solid because I'm such a bad dancer.

(LAUGHTER)

HASLET-DAVIS: We're going to change that. I told you, I told you I'm going to teach you. I'm going to teach you.

YOUNG: And Adrianne also spoke at this week's memorial in Boston with her husband Adam, a vet who had just returned from Afghanistan and was with Adrianne when the bombs went off, looking on.

HASLET-DAVIS: I have also learned that it is OK to not be OK, that we still have to let ourselves grieve. We can stay in bed, even, for a few days. Yet it is that Boston strong attitude that gets us back out, and when we cannot find the strength to do it ourselves, we have those around us that lift us back up.

YOUNG: There's a lot going on this week.

HASLET-DAVIS: Yeah, there is, but I try and take it day by day. Today's a great day. I get to spend it with my brother and family. So it keeps you grounded, it keeps you healthy, it keeps you sane. And, you know, you just, you take it day by day.

YOUNG: And Timothy, your brother, here from Washington state. Are you going to be running, do I hear?

TIMOTHY HASLET: I will be running, yes, yeah.

YOUNG: How are you both approaching the marathon? Timothy, start with you. I can't imagine how emotional that is. You've been in Washington state, your sister all the way across the continent when this happened.

HASLET: Yeah, (unintelligible). I can't wait to jump in and just be a part of this. This is a strong statement against evil and injustice, and this is our stand. This is our run to say no, this is not how it should be and not how it's going to be.

YOUNG: Adrianne, you're nodding.

(LAUGHTER)

HASLET-DAVIS: Yes, I'm nodding. I completely agree. It's a strong statement of - it's bigger than what happened last year. It's a statement of love and of support, and you can't get that more than with family.

HASLET: Yeah, and as family you want to be together, and I think older brother to younger sister, you just want to be out there. You want to say come on, you know, you want to face the evil, and you want to take their place, and that completely not possible for me. So I channel that into everything, every bit of strength I have for this race. And so this is my chance.

YOUNG: How's your stomach approaching the day, though?

HASLET-DAVIS: Yeah, it's tough, you know, it's really tough. I physically feel uneasy. Just it's hard to think that it's been a year. I don't think I'm scared of the marathon. I think it's just I'm nervous to not know what kind of emotional state I'll be in at that time. I just want to feel safe, and I want the city to feel safe and comfortable and to go out and show support like they did during the Red Sox parade and pack the streets like 70 deep.

It was so loud, and I was cheering for the Red Sox, but I was mostly cheering for the people that were cheering.

YOUNG: But did you ever have second thoughts of going back? I mean, you are going back?

HASLET-DAVIS: Yes, I am, I am going back. I'm going back with my husband Adam and a couple of our friends.

YOUNG: How is Adam?

HASLET-DAVIS: He's doing well. You know, we both take it day by day. As much as it's easy to see that I have lost my limb, he has suffered tremendously, as well. He has constant ringing in his ears, and that can drive a person crazy, and he's coping as beautifully as you possibly could in that situation.

He also doesn't have feeling in his left foot, from the ankle forward. So it's tough, you know, he's limping by the end of the day and trying to stay strong for both of us.

YOUNG: And like you said, he doesn't have as visible a sign to people of I have this injury.

HASLET-DAVIS: Right, and, you know, that's something that we both feel really passionate about, to make people aware of the injuries that people don't see. You know, when I'm walking down the street, it's hard for even people to see that I have lost a limb because I cover it with jeans and such. But it's also incredibly important to us, as I raised awareness during the awareness speech, about PTSD, which is the completely invisible wound that so many people have and so many soldiers have, being in the military.

And being a military wife, that's really important for me to bring it to the civilian world.

YOUNG: One of the most powerful moments visiting with you guys a year ago was his complete helplessness. You know, here he was just back from war, he's a soldier. He expected to meet IEDs. He didn't expect to have one two weeks back, and he didn't expect to not be able to help his wife because he couldn't. He was incapacitated.

HASLET-DAVIS: Yeah, you know, it was really tough for him. You know, he said multiple times that he carried a tourniquet on his arm for almost six months, and the one time he needed it, he didn't, and thankfully he wore a belt that day, and he was able to use that.

But he did help me in the sense that he was the first - he was my first first responder. He's always been my first first responder, whether it's crying over a commercial and him just hugging me or being on the side of the road and feeling completely helpless. But yeah, he was feeling like he wanted to be able to prevent that. That's why he joined the military, so things like this don't happen.

YOUNG: So he's doing better?

HASLET-DAVIS: He is doing better. You know, we're both doing better, but we never want to say we're healed. We're not.

YOUNG: Adrianne Haslet-Davis, she and her husband Adam survived the Boston bombing. We'll have more with Adrianne and her brother Timothy just ahead, HERE AND NOW.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

YOUNG: It's HERE AND NOW, and if you've just joined us, we're catching up with Adrianne Haslet-Davis and her brother Timothy, who is visiting Adrianne from Washington state, where they grew up, and is going to run the marathon in honor of Adrianne and other survivors of last year's bombing this coming Monday.

This is a rare quiet moment for this young woman, who has become one of the faces of survival of the Boston Marathon. She was the ballroom dancer who lost her lower leg in the bombing and promised to dance on "Dancing with the Stars," appeared with Anderson Cooper on CNN with a bright pink warmer covering her stump.

We first met Adrianne just days after the bombings. She invited us to her hospital room. Even days after that terrible event, she wanted to reclaim her life. And we visited her again last night.

You were the first to decide I want my story out, I want to talk. I remember going to see you and thinking gosh, she's just so - it must be drugs because she's so positive.

(LAUGHTER)

YOUNG: And then I realized that's how you are.

HASLET-DAVIS: Well, you know, it certainly helped with the drugs, I'm not going to lie. When something this traumatic happens to you, you can't feel anything from the chest down, so it definitely helps, for sure. But yes, I am a very positive person, and it doesn't mean I was positive every second of every day, but I tried to find the positive.

You know, I was looking back, I'm doing a lot of reflecting over the past, you know, year but especially over the past week, and I was looking at photos today on my phone, and they're all time-stamped. And the photo today, a year ago, was a bunch of red keg cups and a bunch of hands from friends holding them, and it was sparkling cider and orange juice. They snuck in that to mimic mimosas.

And so it was wonderful to be able to celebrate those little things. You know, we were just celebrating life at that moment.

YOUNG: But you had obviously made this decision. What do you think it is? Is it the performer in you that is demanding to still be on the world stage? You're nodding.

HASLET-DAVIS: Yeah, you know, well I'm nodding because I guess I didn't think of it in that way before. I think Tim could attest to this, that we grew up with parents with an independent children's bookstore, and we were not exposed to a lot of television, and we didn't - you know, we weren't wanting - I didn't grow up to want to be on TV or want to be in the media.

The main reason why I am out in the media is because of people that I have heard about along the way. I researched early on and saw blogs from other amputees that were titled - I saw two of them that were titled something similar to used to be a dancer. And I thought oh my gosh, how horrific is that? They gave up on their dream because they lost their leg. And that's so incredibly sad to me, and it's so hard.

And there was a 13-year-old girl, her parents told her that this is a big old inconvenience that she got into an accident and lost her leg. And I think about all these people that do not have the support system, and I am speaking out so that they have somebody that hopefully they can turn to or know that they're not alone.

YOUNG: Wow, so you in the first few days, you were researching and planning how you were going to approach this.

HASLET-DAVIS: I certainly didn't think that I'd be in the media for this long. That wasn't the plan. But I knew that there were people out there that were alone, and I didn't want them to feel alone. What I'm exposed to and what I think a lot of us are exposed to is we have a lot of behind the scenes support that nobody would ever know. The media would never know. We get together. We see each other. We purposely don't tell the media.

We purposely don't take picture. We purposely turn the cameras off and make sure that nobody hears about it. So we have a support network within ourselves that is unbreakable.

HASLET: You see this mission that she was just describing, this need. She's been thrust in this arena head-on and is like a tea bag in water, is creating this wonderful brew of hope and perseverance and...

YOUNG: There's a great saying about women are like tea bags, put them in hot water and they...

HASLET-DAVIS: And you see how great they really are, right? Yeah. Now that I am, I certainly want to use my voice for good and especially young girls that are out there facing this and feeling alone. And there's a large part of your body that feels like it's completely broken.

I remember feeling like my body was so foreign to me at the age of 32, which is something you've gotten used to by then. I felt like I had a hand growing out of my forehead. And just felt so different from every person on the planet, and that is a horrible feeling.

YOUNG: Are you still having some of that? We're hearing from the other amputees, I think it was Heather Abbott, who got up one morning, she had a beautiful sleep, got up and forgot and fell.

HASLET-DAVIS: Yeah, absolutely. The amputees early on that would come in from Wounded Warriors or Amputee Coalition of America would come in and say, you know, put a chair by your bed for the first year or two so that you don't get out of bed groggy and hurt yourself. You could land on that tibia bone, and then you can't wear your leg, and you're back in the hospital and repairing it for surgery. It's very surgery.

YOUNG: We're talking about getting up in the morning. What do you dream about?

HASLET-DAVIS: You know, it's interesting. I had my first dream as an amputee about two and a half months ago, actually. And I went into my therapist and he said oh my gosh, wait, you said you were an amputee. And I said yes, and he said that is incredible. Your subconscious believes you're an amputee. That usually doesn't happen for the first five years.

So I thought that that was really interesting, and I have had dreams since then that I am an amputee, both that I have both limbs and that I am an amputee. But I was very proud of myself that that is already happening within the first year. So he was shocked. And I like to be an overachiever when it comes to recovery, so I was happy that happened.

(LAUGHTER)

YOUNG: Obviously you have waking dreams, too. What are they?

HASLET-DAVIS: Gosh, you know, I just, I want to continue to heal. I'm not there yet. I want to make sure that I'm not giving up on fulfilling the dreams that I set out to do and to accomplish and make sure that this doesn't define me. I think that the prosthetic world is a bit dinosaur in some ways, as far as the majority of practice. And so I hope to be a part of the advancements of prosthetics and help to get especially women's prosthetics and women's cosmetic prosthetics covered under insurance and Medicare.

YOUNG: They're not?

HASLET-DAVIS: No, not the cosmetic skin.

YOUNG: All amputees we know ordinarily need more than one leg. Certain legs are not covered?

HASLET-DAVIS: No, certain legs are not covered, and certain skins are not covered.

YOUNG: They're $100,000 apiece.

HASLET-DAVIS: Yeah, they can be. Yeah, they can be even more than that, yeah. It's been a real learning experience and something that I feel like there are a lot of things that people are doing really right, and there are a lot of things that people can really improve on.

YOUNG: Well, it has been quite a year. I guess I just want to wish you both the very best on marathon day.

HASLET-DAVIS: I can't be more proud of Tim and also - and David. Our other brother is running, as well.

And I'm so thankful that they're here in this pivotal time and this emotional time between the anniversary and the marathon. I'm just excited for Boston to come out and have an amazing race.

HASLET: It's going to be good, and I just can't wait to be out there, and the crowds and the cheers.

HASLET-DAVIS: I will say that as - this is how supportive my brothers are, that normally don't rock hot pink.

(LAUGHTER)

HASLET-DAVIS: They are wearing hot pink legwarmers on their left - I should say compression sleeves, I shouldn't say legwarmer. It's a compression sleeve, it's the manly term. But they're wearing the hot pink on their left leg to honor the first interview that I did with Anderson Cooper and that got a lot of play. There were people that showed up the next day in support of all the survivors wearing a hot pink legwarmer. So they'll be rocking it. So if you see them out on the course, be sure to cheer extra loud.

(LAUGHTER)

YOUNG: Thank you, thank you both so much.

HASLET-DAVIS: Thank you.

HASLET: Thank you.

HASLET-DAVIS: Thank you so much.

YOUNG: Adrianne Haslet-Davis, and her brother Timothy Haslet will be running in honor of his sister this Monday at the Boston Marathon. By the way, you may also have heard that Adrianne walked off the set of "Meet the Press" this Sunday because she'd ask that they not ask her about the alleged bombers, and they couldn't agree. She says that is part of her strategy for surviving the attacks: not looking back. You're listening to HERE AND NOW. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
  • Bill Bailey

    Today while I was fixing my garage door I was listening to Here and Now and the Adrianne Haslet-Davis story. The reason it caught my interest was Ms. Haslet-Davis has joined the ranks of the thousands upon thousands of amputees in this country. I am also an amputee, above the knee (AK, Level 3) due to a Staph infection.
    I was really hoping that the advocate part of the story would have been a cry for all of us who have limb loss to rally at the local state and federal level for more affordable prosthetics. At the least a shout for health care equal to the individuals needs. Not so.
    Let me be clear that I am saddened and angry that Adrianne suffered such a horrific loss. No one be it civilian, police, fire, EMT or Armed Service Member should ever go through what happened at the marathon in Boston or on any battle field. Limb loss is bad physically and can be devestating mentally. If we allow it.
    Some of those injured in Boston are speaking out and have taken stands for a variety of issues. All well and good, if given a chance at the podium of television who among us would turn our backs at the chance for fifteen minutes of fame? My only objection is having someone profess to be an advocate who is still wearing their first prosthetic device. When the studio lights have dimmed and your money is gone then we can talk about what amputees need.

  • Basoran

    Heartwarming as this personal interest story was, I was astonished at the complete lack of mention of Hugh Herr, the double amputee whose life’s work made her recovery to dance possible. Honestly his story is better. A man so determined to not be broken he fixes others. You disappoint me with the broad shallow pool this story was. Minus 50 DKP

  • gotham77

    She seems like much more of an advocate for herself.

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