A Colombian-American couple injured in the April 15 bombing at the Boston Marathon are struggling to put their lives back together as they face multiple surgeries, physical rehabilitation, post-traumatic stress and mounting medical bills.
Alvaro Galvis, originally from Bogota, Colombia, moved to the Boston area in 1969 to attend college. In 1971 he attended his first Boston Marathon and saw his fellow countryman, Alvaro Mejia, win the race in just over two hours and 18 minutes. That experience marked the beginning of a tradition for Galvis that would last over 40 years.
Galvis and his wife of 36 years, Martha, have been at the finish line of the Boston Marathon every year since they met, and they were there on April 15 when two bombs exploded near Copley square, leaving both of them severely injured.
Alvaro suffered shrapnel wounds to his right leg and buttocks and has undergone two surgeries to remove the metal scraps. However, doctors are unable to remove it all. The blast severely damaged Martha’s left hand, and her ring finger had to be amputated. She has undergone a number of surgeries to repair damaged nerves in her legs and at the moment she remains in an acute rehabilitation center in Boston, where she must slowly retrain her body to walk.
It’s not just the physical injuries that the 62-year-old Alvaro and 60-year-old Martha are battling. Both suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), both are seeing therapists and both are on medication to help them sleep, as nightmares and flashbacks continue to haunt them.
“I went downstairs the other day with my daughter and saw two guys with backpacks and I just froze,” Alvaro told Colombia Reports. “I told my daughter I couldn’t move.”
“This is an event that marked the nation,” said Alvaro. “We are from a small city in New Hampshire and we are marked for life now … Every April 15, every marathon, we will remember.”
Erika Galvis, the daughter of Alvaro and Martha spoke about when she heard the news while at work in Miami, Florida where she currently resides.
“I got the news and I froze. I had a sick feeling in my stomach and knew something bad had happened.” Soon after she received a phone call. After the blast, Martha had the wherewithal to have the paramedic attending to her call Erika from her cell phone. She doesn’t remember the entire conversation but she does remember that her mom repeated, “I can’t find your father.”
After a frantic two-hour search, Alvaro was found to be in the same hospital where they brought Martha. The couple had been transferred in different ambulances.
Both Alvaro and Martha have left the hospital, however, Martha must remain in the rehab center while she undergoes intensive physical therapy to regain her mobility. According the the Galvis’ physicians, it could take as long as one year.
The whole experience has turned the Galvis’ world upside down.
As of April 15, Alvaro planned to retire in three years from his job in medical sales, and Martha had been an assistant pre-school teacher in New Hampshire. Now Alvaro doesn’t know whether he will be able to return to work, while Martha, with little or no use of her left hand, will find being a hands-on pre-school teacher that much more difficult. The family is also worried about the financial burden that Martha’s extensive treatment over the next year might bring. “The insurance will cover some of it,” said Alvaro, but “my whole life is upside down, economically uncertain.”
The Galvis children (Erika has a brother, Leonardo, and a sister, Martha) have set up fundraiser through GiveForward.com to help with some of the family’s medical bills.
“The outpouring of people has been incredible,” said Alvaro, “Over 350 people have contributed to the fund.”
As for the 40-year Galvis family tradition of visiting Boston’s most-celebrated day, Erika is uncertain. “I have very mixed feelings. At this point I don’t want to attend any events … It’s sad that this could happen, that terrorism has become a reality in life.”
Alvaro, who added that Boston’s 4th of July celebration was also a family favorite event to attend in addition to the Marathon, said that he will now avoid crowds and “from now on we’ll watch these events from the house.”
For more information on the Galvis Fund please visit www.giveforward.com/fundraiser/ts82/galvisfund.
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