Posted at: 05/27/2013 7:14 AM
Pete DiMartino dreamed of summer ale from his Boston hospital room, a kind of light-bodied beer with honey and lavender accents he might pour in the brewery he wants to open someday.
In quiet times between therapy sessions, the 28-year-old bartender from Rochester, N.Y., even came up with a name for the future business: Hip Zipper Lodge.
It's a defiant nod to the trauma that brought DiMartino to Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, the April 15 bombing that embedded the pull tab of a zipper near his left hip, blew away much of the back of his right leg and burned a lot of his left leg.
One moment, DiMartino was watching with other loved ones for his mother to run by as she headed for the Boston Marathon's finish line. Then the first of two bombs detonated about 20 feet away and he was down on the sidewalk, with some people screaming, others running away, and blood spilling.
He used his weeks of hospitalization to reflect on what his life will look like going forward. DiMartino, who also does masonry work, has been reading up on becoming an entrepreneur and formulating the beginnings of a business plan.
"I just want to show that it's not all bad, that there is positive that can come out of it. I appreciate life more now," he said from a wheelchair at Spaulding last week, a grin spreading across his face. "The little things, like standing up and being able to pee."
DiMartino rejoices every day in what he calls small victories, like making it a little farther on his crutches and climbing a few stairs for the first time.
"I don't want anybody feeling sorry for me," he said. "I want people to see that this has made me a better person, and I want people to become better people through what they see through me."
DiMartino had three surgeries at Massachusetts General Hospital, including one operation to take tissue from his left arm and skin from his right thigh and to rebuild the back of his lower right leg. He was discharged from Spaulding on Thursday.
His 26-year-old girlfriend spent weeks recovering at another Boston hospital after suffering injuries in the blast that DiMartino said also left her 5-year-old son with a shrapnel injury. DiMartino's 31-year-old sister, Gina, left Spaulding about three weeks ago after suffering a shrapnel injury that also left her having to learn how to walk again.
Back home, DiMartino will be sharing a bedroom with her as the two recuperate in their parents' home in Webster, N.Y.
He said his Rochester apartment lease ran out during his hospitalization and kidded that it was a "silver lining" that his father had to move his belongings for him. He also joked that he'd been in Boston so long - he'd gotten visits from Celtics and New England Patriots players and threw out the first pitch at a Red Sox game - that he felt like a local.
"I'm a resident now, aren't I?" he asked. "I think I'm getting mail here."
DiMartino said he doesn't spend any time thinking about the brothers authorities say were responsible for the attack that killed three people and injured more than 260.
"Those guys didn't think about me, they didn't care about me, so I'm going to give them the same courtesy," DiMartino said.
He has been doing about three hours of therapy a day and said he always tries to push himself.
"It's amazing," Spaulding occupational therapist Julia Broyer said of his progress. "He's gotten stronger. His balance is better. His endurance is better."
While learning to walk again isn't easy, DiMartino said there's no way he'll give up. He's got big plans.
"I don't get scared that it's not going to work," the bartender said of his recovery. "I just do it."