Thursday, March 20, 2014

Boston Marathon survivor Adrianne Haslet-Davis returns to the dance floor...

Adrianne Haslet-Davis, the gutsy ballroom dancer who lost her left foot in the marathon bombings, made good on her Herald front-page vow last April to dance again, performing a rumba yesterday on a bionic leg designed by an MIT brainiac who is himself a double amputee.
“Conquering that out on that stage felt like accomplishing something I have been waiting my entire life to accomplish,” Haslet-Davis told the Herald yesterday. “The feeling is priceless. It took me a long time to even listen to music after the marathon. To dance again is incredible.
“I was always determined to dance again, and I knew that I had to, that I would, and here I am,” she said. “I’m a survivor, not a victim.”
Haslet-Davis and her husband, Air Force Maj. Adam Davis, were standing on Boylston Street cheering on the runners when the bombs went off nearly a year ago. Her left leg was amputated mid-calf. Her husband, just back from Afghanistan, suffered shrapnel wounds.
Just a week after the blast, 
Haslet-Davis told the Herald from her hospital bed that she would dance again. Last night, she said her steely determination to hold onto that dream came from one source.
“I knew if I didn’t hold onto it, that (expletive) would win,” she said, adding she has never spoken the names of accused marathon bombers Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev.
“It’s been a long road,” she said. “It really has been a road, so today is extra celebratory 
because it has really come to fruition. We thought we could do it, 
we planned to do it, and we did it.”
The road for the former Arthur Murray ballroom instructor began when she met Hugh Herr, director of the Biomechatronics group at The MIT Media Lab. A climber who lost both legs to frostbite in a blizzard on Mount Washington in 1982, Herr told Haslet-Davis he believed he could create a prosthetic leg that would mimic the movements of the body while dancing.
“He said, ‘I think we can do this, I think we can make this happen, and the next week I was in his lab and it was ‘Game on!’” she said.
Haslet-Davis’ proud mom, Chauni Haslet, on vacation in 
Hawaii with her husband while her daughter was taking the stage in Vancouver, said, “It’s beyond belief. She has proven she can do anything she puts her mind to. It’s unbelievable.
“We’re so excited. I love her,” said Adrianne’s dad, Bill Haslet. “She’s an inspiration. ... All along she’s been thinking about the city of Boston. She’s done a good job.”
Haslet-Davis’ performance stunned the crowd at yesterday’s TED conference, where techies had come to hear Herr’s talk on his prosthetic breakthroughs.
“In 3.5 seconds, the criminals and cowards took Adrianne off the dance floor,” Herr said. “In 200 days, we put her back.”
Haslet-Davis performed a rumba with Christian Lightner, a Boston dancer who is her best friend’s regular dance partner.
“Her body looks lithe and unimpaired. Her bionic foot is encased in a white dancing slipper, just like her right foot. It’s a stunning moment. ...” the TED blog reported.
“Oh my gosh, grown men were bawling,” Haslet-Davis said. “Some of them came up to me and said it was the only time they cried other than at the birth of their children. I got a standing ovation when I came out onstage and one when we finished. ... It meant the world to me.”
Haslet-Davis had hoped to run the marathon this year, but she isn’t ready. So her twin brothers, Timothy and David Haslet, 37, will run in her honor. As will best friend Stacy Friedman, who is raising funds for Limbs For Life, which has helped Haslet-Davis and other marathon survivors.
“We’ve all received so much support but I know there are a lot of other people out there who are dealing with what I’ve dealt with,” Haslet-Davis said, “so if I can be any kind of a stepping stone for them, then that’s wonderful.”