EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

September 10, 2013

Marathon bombing survivor says attitude matters

Marathon bombing survivor speaks to Pollard School staff

By Alex Lippa

---- — PLAISTOW — On April 15, Roseann Sdoia did what she loved to do every year. She stood on Boylston Street and watched her friend approach the finish line of the Boston Marathon.

That’s when her life changed forever.

Sdoia, 45, was standing near the site of the second explosion. She was seriously hurt and ended up losing her right leg, just above the knee.

Five months later, the Boston resident is getting used to her new prosthetic leg.

Yesterday, she told her story of survival to the staff at Pollard School.

“When I was lying on Boylston Street,” Sdoia said, “I was asking myself, ‘Do I want to live or do I want to die?’ I felt if I lost consciousness, I would die. I did an assessment of my life and my friends and my family, and decided I didn’t want to die.”

One of the family members Sdoia thought of while lying there was her only sister, Gia Buckley.

Buckley, a kindergarten teacher at Pollard School, thought her colleagues would benefit from hearing her sister’s story.

“Sometimes adversity can bring good things,” Buckley said.

Both Buckley and Sdoia were moved to tears as Sdoia’s story unfolded yesterday in the school cafeteria.

“I remember waking up at Massachusetts General Hospital, and my mind was still a little bit foggy from the medication, but I kept a positive attitude,” she said. “When the doctor told me he had to amputate my leg from above the knee, I think he was shocked. I responded with just one request. ‘Can you at least make it look pretty and make the end of my leg look like a rose?’”

She spoke gratefully of the support she received, including from Buckley and the Pollard School community.

“They held fundraisers for me. The kids made cards and sent them to me,” she said. “Everyone was so supportive and rallied around me. They were unbelievable.”

Pollard School principal Michelle Gaydos said she thought listening to Sdoia speak would be a good way to get the school year started.

“I think we made a connection with her,” she said. “Listening to her positive attitude at the beginning of the school year is a great message to open, to the staff that we have.”

Sdoia spent weeks at Massachusetts General, then more time at Spaulding Rehab Center. She was released in mid-May, but she still faces challenges.

“My goal is to walk without a limp,” she said. “I go for physical therapy, I’m also working with a personal trainer to just get my strength back. I’m getting there though, slowly, but surely.”

Sdoia said she hopes to return to her job at a development company, but she’s not ready yet.

She said the most difficult part of the experience was losing her independence.

“Being single, I’ve always been the most responsible for my life,” she said. “But having to relinquish it to (Buckley) and my two good friends has been a challenge.

Yesterday was Sdoia’s first public speaking event since the bombings; she left a strong impression on the staff.

“You will always have choices in your life,” Buckley said. “You can choose to be happy, or choose to be angry. But she chose to do it with a smile on her face and real determination.”