Yesterday, I read Stronger, the book by Jeff Bauman about his experience during and following the 2013 Boston Marathon. You may not recognize his name, but you would definitely recognize the photo of him from last year. He was the man in the wheelchair missing his legs. That photo was splashed everywhere, and in this book, I was horrified to learn that the photo is how his family and friends learned that he had been injured.
I have to admit, I really enjoyed this book. Bauman didn’t pull any punches. At times, his spirits were high, and at times, they were very low. He doesn’t set himself out as some sort of great guy. Just a normal guy dealing with a crappy situation.
One thing I found very interesting were his comments about the public appearances he was asked to make. For example, when he was asked to wave a flag at a hockey game, were they just being nice and giving him a cool opportunity or were they just using him as a publicity prop? Given that at a later hockey game, he mentions that they wanted him to come out on the ice but they wanted him walking (he wasn’t ready for that), I’d say he was being used as a prop. But he made the appearances anyway because he felt it was important for all of the people who had done such nice things for him.
Because of that now infamous picture of Jeff in the wheelchair, he is somewhat of a celebrity. People want to know how he is doing, which led to a lot of publicity requests. It was interesting to see how he chose who to speak to. The New York Times got interviews because they had sent a 24-year-old intern to cover the marathon and then let him continue the coverage and Jeff thought he was a nice guy. Brian Williams got an interview because he personally called Jeff’s publicity person (a friend of a friend volunteering to help him out). But I thought it was cool how he tried to share the opportunities he was given. He met other “less famous” bombing victims in the hospital and became friends with them and tried to share the opportunities.
Jeff was very lucky, all things considered. Because of the state of his legs (or lack thereof) when he arrived at the hospital, his treatment was obvious. There was nothing to save. Other victims went through more surgeries because they were trying to save limbs. He was lucky in that he had no infections in his wounds. He physically healed very quickly. He had great insurance, though his mentions of the costs of his rehab and his legs make you wonder how he will make ends meet over the coming decades.
I’m sure there will be criticisms of the book. Some will say that he’s cashing in. I think he’s getting out a story that many people want to hear. And hey, I think he deserves to cash in a bit. He’s going to need that money.
So to sum up, if you’re interested in Jeff’s story, check out the book. It’s not a tough read, and he doesn’t go into great detail about the medical issues (if you’re squeamish, that might be a concern). He doesn’t set himself out as some great guy. Just a guy who happened to be somewhere where his life changed in an instant.