Boston bombing survivor's charity gives 1st artificial limb

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Boston Marathon Bombing Survivor Launches New Foundation for Amputees

BOSTON (AP) -- Ever since she lost a leg in the Boston Marathon bombing, Heather Abbott has devoted herself to giving others a leg up.

On Monday, she'll accomplish that quite literally. The Heather Abbott Foundation will donate its first artificial limb to a 26-year-old woman from Walpole, Massachusetts, who said it will let her do something she's never been able to do before: walk in heels.

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Boston bombing survivor's charity gives 1st artificial limb
2013 Boston Marathon bombing survivor Heather Abbott speaks during an interview at her home in Newport, R.I., Friday, Dec. 12, 2014. For Abbott, who lost her left leg, One Fund Boston helped cover the costly prosthetics that allowed her to reclaim some degree of normalcy. Twenty months and $80 million later, the charity set up to help victims of the bombings is closing down. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
In this March 20, 2014 photo, Boston Marathon bombing survivor Heather Abbott pauses while speaking with a reporter at her home in Newport, R.I. Abbott wants to be able do all the things she did before the bombing a year ago. Thatâs why she made the difficult decision to have her left leg amputated. Four surgeons had told her there was a good possibility she would never walk again. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
BOSTON - APRIL 25: Boston Marathon bombing victim Heather Abbott, 38, of Newport, R.I., speaks at a Brigham and Women's Hospital press conference with her surgeon, Dr. Eric Bluman, on Thursday, April 25, 2013. (Photo by Pat Greenhouse/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
BOSTON - APRIL 25: Boston Marathon bombing victim Heather Abbott, 38, of Newport, R.I., speaks at a Brigham and Women's Hospital press conference with her surgeon, Dr. Eric Bluman, on Thursday, April 25, 2013. (Photo by Pat Greenhouse/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - JUNE 24: Boston Marathon Bombing victim Heather Abbott arrives at John Joseph Moakley United States Courthouse for the official sentencing of Boston Marathon Bomber Dzhokar Tsarnaev on June 24, 2015 in Boston, Massachusetts. Dzhokar Tsarnaev was found guilty on all 30 counts related to his involvement in the 2013 bombing, which resulted in three deaths and over 250 injuries. (Photo by Scott Eisen/Getty Images)
BOSTON - APRIL 21: Heather Abbott, a survivor of the Boston Marathon bombing, returned to the Forum Restaurant for a VIP party, partially in her honor, on the day of the 118th Boston Marathon on Monday, April 21, 2014. The restaurant was devastated by the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing and was full to capacity. (Photo by Dina Rudick/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
BOSTON - MAY 9: Boston Marathon bombing victim Heather Abbot, an amputee, recovers at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital. (Photo by Suzanne Kreiter/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
Heather Abbott, of Newport, R.I., is wheeled into a news conference past members of the media, at Brigham and Women's Hospital, in Boston, Thursday, April 25, 2013. Abbott underwent a below the knee amputation during surgery on her left leg following injuries she sustained at the Boston Marathon bombings on April 15. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
Boston Marathon bombing survivor Heather Abbott carries a symbolic torch as she crosses the marathon finish line in Boston, Sunday, April 13, 2014, for the last leg of a cross country charity run that began in March in California. Abbott, along with other survivors and family members joined the relay runners for the final half-block to the finish. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)
BOSTON - MAY 11: Boston Marathon bombing survivor Heather Abbott, from Newport R.I., throws out the first pitch of the Boston Red Sox game agains the Toronto Blue Jays at Fenway Park on May 11, 2013. (Photo by John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
NEWPORT, MA - DECEMBER 17: Heather Abbott walks along her street near her Newport home. She lost her left foot and lower portion of that leg in the 2013 Boston Marathon Bombings. She wears a prosthetic. (Photo by John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
NEWPORT, MA - DECEMBER 17: Heather Abbott lost her left foot and lower portion of that leg in the 2013 Boston Marathon Bombings. She wears a prosthetic that looks like a real foot and leg. (Photo by John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
BOSTON - APRIL 19: Boston Marathon bombing survivor Heather Abbott embraces fellow survivor Jane Richard. Abbott hosted the launch party for the Heather Abbott Foundation on April 19, 2015. (Photo by Pat Greenhouse/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
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Hillary Cohen, whose right leg was amputated nearly two years ago, will be fitted Monday with a custom-made leg provided through Abbott's foundation.

"It will allow me to be able to be like any other girl. I'll be able to put myself together more and feel more confident," said Cohen, who works as a bone density technician at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston.

Abbott, who had part of her own leg amputated after suffering grievous injuries in the 2013 terrorist attacks at the marathon finish line, called it "heartwarming" to be able to help Cohen.

For Abbott, a basic artificial leg wasn't enough to help her get her life back. She's since been fitted with additional specialty prostheses that enable her to wear heels, run and swim.

In a very real sense, Abbott said, she feels Cohen's pain.

"I know how important it was to me to have those legs and feel feminine and do things other women could do. They allowed me to get back to my life the way that it was."

Cohen's leg was amputated below the knee in January 2014 because of complications from neurofibromatosis, a painful condition that causes tumors to form on nerve tissue.

Although she has one prosthetic limb, it's not suitable for wearing high heels, running or doing other activities. Abbott's foundation was established to help provide specialty devices so amputees can recover as much of their normal lives as possible.

They're not cheap. A leg like the one Cohen is getting typically costs $70,000, and insurance companies often don't cover anything they deem to be cosmetic or medically unnecessary.

In Cohen's case, Next Step Bionics & Prosthetics of Newton, which is conducting Monday's fitting, provided the leg to the foundation at a discount.

Cohen said she's deeply grateful to get assistance from the Abbott Foundation -- and thrilled that her new leg will let her walk in heels for the first time. Because her disease began at age 13, she's never been able to wear them.

Eventually, she hopes to procure a leg that will let her resume running and chase her goal of completing a marathon -- an achievement that, in a sense, would bring her full-circle with Abbott, her benefactor.

"I want to show people that just because I have a prosthetic doesn't mean I have limitations," Cohen said. "My life now is limitless."

Next up for the Heather Abbott Foundation: providing a running leg to an 8-year-old Massachusetts girl who lost a limb in a lawnmower accident.

"It is going to change her life," Abbott said.

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