“When we first launched Stepping Strong, we did not know if anyone would join us in our mission or share our passion, but now we have thousands of supporters around the globe,” said Audrey Epstein Reny at a heartwarming event earlier this year celebrating the opening of The Gillian Reny Stepping Strong Center for Trauma Innovation at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
Thankful for the BWH care team that saved the life and limbs of her daughter Gillian after the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings, Audrey and her family have inspired friends, extended family, and even complete strangers to contribute to trauma research and care programs at the hospital. In the past year, Audrey and her husband Steven, along with their parents Esta and Robert Epstein and Betty and Guy Reny, have given an additional $1.15 million to the center. Since 2014, they and their extended family have contributed $4.4 million total.
“Our heartfelt thanks go to the Reny and Epstein families, who selflessly decided to turn their personal tragedy into a story of hope and perseverance,” said BWH President Betsy Nabel, MD.
Directed by Mitchel B. Harris, MD—who was a key member of Gillian’s care team—the center brings together physician-scientists from various disciplines to develop new ideas that will transform care for millions who suffer traumatic injuries each year. Already, contributions have fueled research and fellowships in areas including limb reconstruction, advanced stem cell technology, and orthopaedic and plastic surgery.
Matthew J. Carty, MD, director of BWH’s Lower Limb Extremity Program, used Stepping Strong funding to develop a first-of-its-kind amputation procedure to restore limb function and diminish pain. Last summer, Carty performed the procedure on Jim Ewing—who fell 50 feet in a rock climbing accident and severely damaged his left leg. The procedure will allow Ewing to test a robotic prosthetic that interacts with the nervous system, allowing him to move and feel sensation similar to a natural limb.
According to Audrey, “It is almost beyond words to see our family’s vision turn into hope for Jim. We are confident that he is just the first of many trauma patients who will benefit from future Stepping Strong innovations.”