John Odom says he doesn't think of himself as a hero. The people who helped him survive the Boston Marathon bombing are the real heroes, he says, while his role is just to inspire other victims to recover. Yet it's this type of comment that makes him even more heroic.
To most, just the fact that he survived the April 15 blast is courageous. As John and his wife Karen recount in this two-part Bravery Tapes segment, they were waiting for their daughter to cross the finish line of the race when the bombs went off. While Karen went unscathed, John's legs were torn apart so badly that doctors questioned whether he would make it. His heart stopped twice because of blood loss, he underwent eleven operations, spent more than a week on life support, and doesn't remember anything that happened for a month after the bombing. Still, he survived.
Then, experts were unsure he would walk again. After all, the shrapnel tore arteries in each leg and cut his sciatic nerve. But when it came time to leave the hospital for the first time and staff readied a wheelchair, Odom told them he would walk out. Now, he walks with the help of a cane even though he has no feeling in his left foot.
What makes his success all the more laudable is his intent. Odom says he embraced the pains and challenges of recovery to inspire the other victims in the hospital to do the same. "We went to therapy. I felt that I needed to be that strong person for them," Odom said in an interview upon return to his Southern California home. "I had to be the one."
And when the blast first happened, even though Odom was the man down, he wanted to make sure his loved ones had survived. "It's the other people I really thought about," he says. "I was hoping everything was going to be ok for them."
John wasn't alone in his willingness to help others. Karen, his wife of 46 years, rallied support behind John while he was in the hospital and even rushed in to tell nurses he had malignant hyperthermia, a potentially life-threatening condition that can be triggered during anesthesia.
"I was so afraid if he went to sleep he would never wake up," Karen said. "I never gave up hope. I just kept telling him, 'you've got to fight John. You're going to be ok.'"
With the Odoms finally back home in Southern California after months of recovery in Boston, John says he hopes others can use his story as fuel to push forward in their own lives. "For me to be able to inspire people is what my goal is to be able to do here," he says at the end of the second Bravery Tapes segment. "Don't give up, find your strength, take your opportunities and move forward."
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