Officer Richard Donohue: Tackling the road to recovery one painful step at a time

MBTA Transit Police Officer Richard H. Donohue Jr and his wife Kimberly spoke to the press about Richard's rehabilitation at Spaulding Hospital yesterday. PHOTO BY NICOLAUS CZARNECKI/METRO
MBTA Transit Police Officer Richard H. Donohue Jr and his wife Kimberly spoke to the press about Richard’s rehabilitation at Spaulding Hospital Sunday.
PHOTO BY NICOLAUS CZARNECKI/METRO

After nearly losing his life last month, Transit Officer Richard Donohue is keeping a positive attitude and leaning on family, and fellow officers as he takes his first, painful strides toward recovery.

A bullet severed Donohue’s femoral artery just 30 days ago, when he was caught in a shootout with Boston bombing suspects, brothers Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. He suffered tremendous blood loss, went into cardiac arrest and had surgeries on both legs. Now, a month later, nerve damage causes pain; at times so severe it wakes him at night.

But the 33-year-old transit officer smiled through the pangs Sunday as he walked on crutches and iced the lower part of his leg in a sunny, sprawling gym at the Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital in Charlestown, where he was transferred last week.

“There’s no way I’m not going to get through this without smiling.” he said. “I get cramps. I have just general pain, I can’t even explain it. It comes and goes, and it’s so bad, but I can’t do anything about it.”

Donohue remembers very little from the shootout, which he described as “mayhem.”

“My buddy went to the scene a couple of hours later and said, ‘Wow, Dic has to be dead. This is more blood than we’ve ever seen on the ground,’” he said.

Doctors told Kim Donohue, 31, that her husband had barely a drop of blood left in his body by the time he arrived at Mt. Auburn Hospital on April 19, and that he may not be able to keep his leg.

“I said, ‘Get rid of his right leg. We don’t need it. Just do what you’ve got to do to keep my husband alive,” she said Sunday, sitting close to her husband.

When asked about eyewitness reports that suggest Donohue may have been shot by a fellow police officer during the Watertown shoot out, Kim said, “Everybody was there doing what they needed to do. It’s sort of neither here nor there for us if it was friendly fire because everybody went there to get their job done.”

After emerging from a coma, Donohue slowly absorbed the harsh reality that his friend and fellow officer Sean Collier, 26, had been executed the same night of the shootout.

When asked whether he hopes Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the one surviving bombing suspect, would be sentenced to death, Donohue was noncommittal, deferring the issue to the government.

“I take care of the law enforcement side of the house and the justice side they can handle that however they see fit,” he said. “Of course you have anger. I’m glad that the second suspect was caught. As long as things go the right way this person is going to be brought to justice. I won’t be happy if this person ends up walking.”

Follow Morgan Rousseau on Twitter: @MetroMorgan
Follow Metro Boston on Twitter: @MetroBOS



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