He was still smiling and chipper and eager to get on with his life. Sgt. Dic Donohue, a Winchester native and former North Woburn resident and MBTA Transit Police officer, came to speak to our Rotary Club on March 8. Sgt. Donahue reflected on the Boston Marathon shootings where he was nearly killed in a wild exchange of gunfire in the morning of April 19, 2013, with two brothers, whose case has received widespread publicity.
Sgt. Donohue lived in North Woburn at the time of the shooting so the case brought a lot of media coverage to the city. “I’m stronger than ever before as I see there is more silver lining to remember, along with all the other good stuff,” he reflects. The outpouring of affection, assistance and encouragement from people has been tremendous, he says, noting everyone wants to do something to make life a whole lot better these days. “I can think of Woburn and all the people who came forth from the mayor to the chief of police and all those people who brought items like groceries to my house.”
Sgt. Donahue relived his post-Marathon experience when a bullet severed a femoral artery causing severe blood loss on-site in Watertown. He was given immediate lifesaving care, prolonged CPR, and received multiple blood transfusions. Today, he is walking normally … almost. To the casual observer, he is upright and has pep in his step but he will confide with others about his badly-damaged lower left leg and ankle. “It really hurts some days,” he will admit. However, learning to live life all over again has been his goal since the shooting, which required two months in the hospital for rehabilitation. “I am stronger than ever before,” he said in his talk to the club.
“There is more to a new silver lining than the pain,” he recounts, determined to get over the April 19 experience. “I just keep remembering all the good stuff.” Donohue, a graduate of Winchester High in 1998, came to live in Woburn in 2011 and over a year ago moved to a larger house in Reading. He lived off Elm Street Street on Sunnyside Road, a site where a bevy of activity took place back in April 2013 and for several months later. “I was really part of the town,” he says, citing all the pluses in the school system and the compassion of Woburn townspeople. “In all, I had an incredible group of people around me from the likes of the Winchester police, the doctors, the nurses. They all gave me some great inner strength.”
He shared with the audience his own goals in life. As a youngster and later, he said he had to “learn to be adaptable” and he re-learned this principle again after the shooting. He said he learned a lot just watching the doctors, nurses, EMTs and others do their job and more. ..and going over and above on everything. He says he has applied the principles now to his everyday life and his endurance has picked up “and I am adaptable.” April 2013 The Boston Marathon, he said, was like it always was: even his boarding a bus form Hopkinton into Boston. “I can remember my partner raising the question: Do we need our bullet proof vests today?” “Things were so normal,” he confessed. Then, he remembered, one bomb going off, then another. There were fatalities and many injured, he remembered. And, all the confusion. In turn, the next day came around fast and was a continuation of the disastrous day near the Boston Public Library. “I believe it was shortly before 1 a.m. and we had assembled some 100 officers,” he recounted. “There was more gunfire and the next thing I knew (other officers) were pulling me to safety.”
Then came the ambulance ride and 6-8 hours of surgery. Boston, he said, is fortunate to have such high level treatment for people with gunshots wounds because they are highly-trained in treating patients. “I was basically in a coma for a couple of days,” he added, not remembering anything. “Then, I looked around, and saw all the people who had saved my life." His mind, he said, reflected on many things, including being in the police academy where such training is covered, so they quickly put their guns in the holster “and got out the aid kits to save my life.” People came bedside like his wife Kimberly Marie, his brother and a college friend, as he weathered in a lot of pain those first few days and months. At one point, he was given about a two percent chance to live. He described how he managed to pull through as a result of great care and support, and his personal resiliency.
He had worked in law enforcement as a member of the MBTA Transit Police Department since 2010 and just retired a month ago. He missed 23 months of work and thereafter was promoted to the rank of Sergeant. For his actions in Watertown, he received the state’s highest law enforcement award, the George L. Hanna Medal of Honor and the department’s highest award, the MBTA Transit Police Medal of Honor. He’s also been recognized by over 20 law enforcement and civic organizations. Donohue is a graduate of the Virginia Military Institute and holds Master’s degrees from the University of Massachusetts-Lowell and the University of Limerick, Ireland. Prior to a career in law enforcement, Sgt. Donohue worked in the hospitality industry and served as an officer in the U.S. Navy. In recent days, he also works as a spokesman and board member of the American Red Cross, an organization he credits for his survival. He lives in Reading with his wife Kimberly Marie, and son.
Adapted from a story that first appeared the The Hide.