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Injured Falmouth High School grad recovering at home after surviving Boston Marathon bomb

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Injured Falmouth High School grad recovering at home after surviving Boston Marathon bomb

FALMOUTH — A Falmouth High School graduate is recovering at her parent's home after she was injured in the Patriot's Day terrorist bombing at the Boston Marathon.

The bomb that went off near the finish line on Boylston Street in Boston killed three people and injured more than 170.

One of the injured was 20-year-old Sarah Girouard. The bomb sent shrapnel through her leg, fractured her shin and heel bones, and partially ruptured her ear drum.

With a plastic boot on her right leg, she was brought home by her parents Christopher and Sue Girouard Wednesday night after having surgery and spending two nights at Tufts Medical Center in Boston.

At her parents home on Thursday, Girouard, an environmental science student at Northeastern University, made her way down the stairs, with the help of crutches, and into the family's living room.

Although doctors told her the injuries could keep her on crutches for months, Girouard said she realizes she was fortunate.

"I've definitely done a lot of 'what ifs,'" she said, reclining on a the couch beside her crutches. "It definitely could have been a lot worse. I'm glad this is the extent. I've had worse soccer injuries."

Girouard, who was watching the race with two college roommates, said she "meandered down" Boylston Street on Monday, hoping to have a "mellow day," and was within yards of the finish line. The trio were searching for another friend in the crowd when the first bomb exploded.

They were standing in a triangle, and Girouard took the brunt of the blast.

"I felt this hot pop hit my leg and everything went blurry," she said. "(There was)  dust and smoke, and my ears were ringing – it was that high-pitched, white noise – and then people started screaming."

Girouard and one of her two roommates ran for cover inside a nearby building.

"The first thing that registered was that it was fireworks. It would have never occurred to me that it could have been an actual bomb," she said.

"It was really surreal. ... The whole smoke and dust and pieces of clothing falling that were on fire. It was that white noise. I couldn't really hear anything, but I knew people were screaming."

After finding shelter in the building, the pair realized their other roommate was missing, but soon received a text that she was OK.

Girouard then noticed her leg was bleeding.

"People flooded over to help," she said.

Two men lifted her off the ground and carried her toward the race medical tent. She was put into a wheelchair and pushed the rest of the way, she said.

Medics were checking the wounded and labeling them with colors according to their injuries, she said. Girouard was labeled yellow, level two. She was wrapped in blankets, including around her head, which blocked her view of most of the tent.

"I was probably in the tent maybe 20 or 30 minutes," she said. "The pain was throbbing at that point," because the tent, set up to treat marathon injuries, was running out of pain killers.

Her roommate stayed with her in the tent and was her "correspondent" to family and friends, and kept them updated on her condition.

Sue Girouard, who had been in Boston a few days earlier to visit her daughter, said she learned about the bombing after friends sent messages to find out if Sarah was safe.

"I just flew home immediately and tried to call Sarah," she said, but couldn't reach her. "The worst thoughts go through your head."

Within 10 minutes, she said, she and her husband, Chris, were on the road to Boston.

Meanwhile, Girouard was separated from her friend and put into an ambulance with three other runners, one of whom, she said, had passed out about a quarter of a mile from the finish line. They were taken to Tufts Medical Center.

When they arrived the halls were lined with doctors and nurses, she said, and she was the rushed into an emergency room. A cousin, who works nearby, came to keep her company before her parents arrived.

Soon after she was taken into surgery, where doctors removed pieces of metal from her leg – including one the size of her thumb, Girouard said. Just below her knee, shrapnel had shot straight through, breaking the bone.

Other shrapnel pieces, which were much smaller, were not removed and will naturally fall out, Girouard said doctors told her.

After the surgery, her dad asked if they could keep the large piece of shrapnel, but hospital staff said it had to be turned over to the FBI for evidence.

Girouard was questioned by the FBI and police, but said she hadn't seen anything strange before the explosion.

Although the events were traumatic and haven't completely settled with her, Girouard said the emotional impact hasn't been overwhelming, mostly because her head was down and she didn't see the gore.

"It hasn't been emotionally difficult," she said. "I didn't really see anything. If I had, I would have been more affected. It wasn't as traumatic as it could have been."

Girouard, who is supposed to be taking her finals at Northeastern, will instead be resting at her parent's house. She also said it would be too difficult to stay at her Boston apartment, where she lives on the third floor in a building without an elevator.

Another adjustment will involve the three-day, 180-mile bicycle Trek Across Maine in June, which she had signed up to do with her sister. Now, she'll have to skip that. Instead, the family plans to take a vacation in South Carolina.

But the bombing will not keep her from attending another Boston Marathon.

"It just amazed me at how united and strong Boston is," Girouard said. "It's just a really cool city to be a part of."

On Thursday, she listened to President Barack Obama's speech at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Boston. She was invited to the interfaith service, but declined to attend.

"I'm trying to focus on the here and now," Girouard said, "and getting better and making sure my friends are better."

Will Graff can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or wgraff@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @W_C_Graff.