Turning Tragedy into Hope

April 15, 2015 Brigham and Women's Hospital

Gillian Reny (second from left) and her family after the 2014 Boston Marathon

In honor of the spirit, resiliency, and strength our city showed in response to the Boston Marathon bombings on April 15, 2013, Boston’s Mayor Marty Walsh declared April 15 as One Boston Day. With this new tradition, the mayor invites Bostonians to “come together, spread goodwill throughout the city, and recommit ourselves to our deepest values.”

The bombings tested our community and our hospital as never before. But as Betsy Nabel, MD, President of Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) said, “As I reflect upon that day and our hospital-wide response, my most vivid memories are of the acts of humanity that shone through the tragedy.”

The Gillian Reny Stepping Strong Fund at BWH is one of many examples of that humanity and how the Brigham community is turning tragedy into hope. Established one year ago by the family of bombing survivor Gillian Reny, the fund raised nearly $4 million in its inaugural year, allocating more than $1.3 million to the Stepping Strong Research Scholars and Stepping Strong Innovator Awards – programs that support research in bone and skin regeneration and wound healing, as well as other innovative research in trauma treatment and recovery.

Most recently, the fund helped establish the Stepping Strong Plastic Surgery Trauma Fellowship, with Eugene Fukumode, MD, serving as the inaugural fellow. With the new fellowship, Fukomode will gain surgical expertise with complex local tissue flaps, free tissue transfer, postoperative rehabilitation, delayed reconstruction, flap refinements, and scar management. In addition, he will participate in basic science or clinical research within the field of plastic surgery trauma, with the goal of pursuing an academic career and advancing trauma care.

“Not only will I have the opportunity to learn from and train alongside some of the world’s leading surgeons and researchers in trauma, orthopedic, vascular, and other services, I will also work directly with trauma patients, ensuring they get the highest level of clinical support as they reintegrate into society,” says Fukomode.

Gillian’s mother Audrey Epstein Reny, who also was treated at BWH, says, “When our family was standing at the finish line that fateful day in April 2013, we had no idea how, in just one instant, our lives would be forever changed. That is the nature of trauma. But we learned that hope can emerge from even the most horrific tragedy. BWH’s medical team worked wonders to save our daughter Gillian’s life and limbs and helped us put our family back together in the midst of chaos. We are honored  to see how the community has come together to make the Stepping Strong Fund a positive force of change for trauma survivors.”

In honor of Gillian and all the survivors, first responders, medical teams, law enforcement, and extended community of Bostonians and honorary Bostonians who banded together to help each other in the darkest of hours, join us in giving back on this Boston One Day. We invite you to make a gift to the Gillian Reny Stepping Strong Fund, to donate blood at the Kraft Family bloodmobile at 137 Newbury Street on April 15, or to do your own good deed of your own choosing. Thanks for being part of our Brigham community.

Read the first annual Stepping Strong Report and learn more about the fund at bwhsteppingstrong.org.

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