Get breaking news alerts and special reports. The news and stories that matter, delivered weekday mornings.
Five years ago this Sunday, Gillian Reny was an 18-year-old high school senior standing with her parents at the Boston Marathon waiting for her sister to cross the finish line.
Then the bombs went off, killing three people and injuring hundreds, including Reny.
The blasts sent shrapnel tearing into her right leg, and she was rushed to Brigham and Women’s Hospital, where doctors and nurses fought to save the limb. They used tissue from her abdomen to keep blood flowing to her leg, and they used a stabilizing rod to hold the bone in place.
It was far from a sure thing at first, but as the months passed, it became clear that they could keep her leg intact.
Grateful as she began to recover, Reny and her family asked how they could thank the doctors.
Their answer was to establish the Gillian Reny Stepping Strong Fund, which has raised more than $11 million since 2014 to support trauma research. That research got a physical home last year when the Stepping Strong Center for Trauma Innovation opened at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
“We wanted to do something to show our gratitude to the hospital and the doctors,” Reny, now 23, said in a recent interview. “How could we possibly thank them for all that they had done for us and our family?”
The fund has given nearly $1 million in grants so far, including $100,000 to Matthew J. Carty, a reconstructive plastic surgeon. Carty, who is working in conjunction with MIT, is looking to improve the way amputations are done, so surgery patients are left with a “smarter stump” that is capable of greater sensory feedback, which would improve feeling and movement.