This past April I was injured and hospitalized during the Boston Marathon Explosions with a major back injury and two broken wrists. My Project, "Documenting My Recovery" is made up of a series of photographs and videos that explore my recovery and the healing process. I am interested in the transformative potential of photography and the moving image to reveal new information and evolve cultural thinking.
I have been researching how other artists like Harun Farocki, Hito Steyerl, Stanya Kahn, Jon Rafman, Hannah Wilke and Liza Johnson uncover the effects of war, trauma and violent events. I'm also very interested in how groups, communities and cities grieve and heal collectively. Using texts from Trauma Studies I am exploring and documenting the impacts of psychological and physical trauma on an individual (myself), my family, my immediate community, and on the city as a whole while also looking at the contrasting methods that the mass media has used to process the event. The body's healing time vs. media time.
April through July, I lived at my grandmother's house while recovering from my injuries. A visiting nurse, my mother, father, grandmother, and my dad's family from Ireland came over and took care of me. I recognize how lucky I am to have this support. Through photography and video I wanted to capture the beautiful moments I shared with both my 83-year old grandmother and my 93-year old grandmother from Ireland as they took care of me. Something I never expected as a 34-year old woman. I usually bring my grandmother to doctor's appointments and assist her with whatever she needs. I was also very aware that this could be the last time we were all in a room together like this.
Although I felt completely taken care of, loved and supported I also felt a great deal of anger, sadness, guilt and frustration at the loss of my independence and control over my life. I struggled to understand how or why this horrendous event took place and the impact it has had on others and myself. Physically, I needed help with everything. It was hard at first to let go, embrace being vulnerable and ask for help. I had both good days and bad days. On the good days I was carefree and able to fully enjoy my family's company and create so many wonderful memories. On the bad days I needed to escape. I would walk around my grandmother's building on my own or sit quietly in my room. I quickly set up my camera on a tri-pod and my computer the first week out of the hospital to document whatever came up. I created short videos with diary-like entries. There were days I'd start talking about how uneasy, angry and heavy I felt. Each time I sat down something new would develop. I used humor and got my nervous energy out by performing, dancing and letting go. By the end of every shoot I felt an overwhelming sense of strength and freedom. This action of turning the camera on myself has truly helped me process both the physical and psychological impacts I have felt since April. I have been piecing together the still images and video created during that time along with current work to articulate various thoughts and feelings I experienced from the event and during my recovery. I want to express the anger, sadness, anxiety and loss I felt but I also want to show the beautiful and unique interactions between my family and I during this difficult time. I hope the viewer can see that there is so much love and beauty along with the weight of this terrible event.
Thank you all from the bottom of my heart. I've wanted to write to each and every one of you for a long time but I've found it very difficult to start writing this. I've been working so hard on moving forward that I just get so sad when I think back on these past few months. But I know writing this will help me take another huge step forward. I've been so blown away by the amount of love and compassion I've received from all of you. This has been a long journey, with a lot of ups and downs. I want to thank you all for the cards, flowers, uplifting gifts and endless support and love.
I am surrounded by an absolutely beautiful, loving family who has done everything in their power to support every moment of my physical and emotional recovery. I am blessed to have Brian who has my back no matter what and has made me feel like I'm completely normal throughout this whole thing. I'm so lucky to have so many loving supportive friends who have gone above and beyond to make me laugh and feel taken care of. I wish I could relay just how loved and supported you have all made me feel. I am overwhelmed with gratitude and so humbled by the amount of support I received from family, friends, acquaintances and complete strangers. I want to reach out directly to each of you but I know it's going to take some time. I feel completely confident that I'm going to come out of this stronger and ready to take on any and all challenges that come my way. I want to so badly live this life bigger and more completely than I did before. I know now more than ever, after losing my independence and control over my life these past few months I have complete control over how I choose to live my life from now on. I've had a lot of time to reflect so it is very clear now what I want from this life.
I love you all and I'm so excited for this next chapter, I'm going to make it one hell of a journey. I'll keep you all updated and I look forward to seeing and catching up with you all soon!
8 weeks on: Ryan has hand therapy three times a week. She can now mostly straighten her fingers and clench her fist 80%. Has equipment to allow her to start rotating her right arm. In July, we should know if she is healed enough to start back therapy. Beginning to understand why the doctors said it takes 6 - 12 months. Patience a virtue, is not always possible..... The joy of life is all around us.
Ryan is working hard daily with certified hand therapists to recover movement in her right hand, fingers and arm. This is painful and takes months. She is determined and pushing hard. True to her artistic form, we expect her back brace to eventually become an art project. She still tires easily but is positive. The ongoing pain in her back and arm along with therapy are all part of the healing process. Our sunshine girl is fighting hard and is on her way back.
We have a nursing assistant coming in at night to help Ryan. Between the two arms breaks - arm cast / braces and lack of mobility in fingers / right hand, she needs help to dress, shower etc.
Her therapy and follow-up medical appointments are already filling in the calendar. Ryan thanks you all. She can't use a mouse / keyboard right now. Her schedule is quickly filling up with medical appointments and therapy.
The family are working on schedules to give her the support she needs.
Ryan McMahon's back & two arms were broken in a fall from the viewing stands at the Boston Marathon finish line. I am her father. Friends helped create this fundraiser to help support her recovery and rehabilitation from injuries sustained in the 2013 Boston Marathon.
She spent a week at Boston Medical Center where she underwent surgery for her injuries. She will undergo extensive physical therapy over the course of many months. We are told that full recovery may take a year. She has a back brace and each arm is in now in a brace. She suffered a concussion and minor internal injuries.
Ryan is a marketing professional and freelance photographer. Her extensive injuries will prevent her from working for the foreseeable future. She is a resident of Boston and has a passionate love for the city.
Like many other marathon supporters, Ryan was at the finish line cheering on the runners. She runs half marathons herself and looks forward to running in the marathon when she is fully healed.
Thank you for helping Ryan get through and beyond this painful chapter in her life. She feels very lucky to be surrounded by such love.
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