Mike Coots flew from Hawaii to Boston recently to meet with victims of the bombings, hoping to console, comfort and offer advice to those who lost limbs.
He was representing Friends of Bethany, a nonprofit organization of which he is a board member. Undoubtedly you're familiar with surfer Bethany Hamilton, who while surfing lost her arm in a shark attack. She has since devoted her life to helping other amputees.
The Friends of Bethany is "dedicated to sharing the hope and love of Jesus Christ worldwide by supporting and inspiring people through the life stories of Bethany Hamilton and others."
Surfer Magazine photographer Mike Coots is one of the "others."
Coots can relate to the bombing victims because he experienced his own horrific tragedy in 1997 as a 17-year-old. While surfing off Kauai, Coots was attacked by tiger shark, which grabbed his right leg and wouldn't let go. When it did, Coots was missing his foot and part of his lower leg.
For the bombing victims, Friends of Bethany raised $25,000, and local businesses on Kauai donated goods like coffee, cookies and the like. But that was just a start.
"The more we thought about it, we realized that the best thing we could do for a lot of the victims was to be there in person to let them know what the recovery process was gonna be like, from someone who's been there," Coots told Surfer Magazine.
So Coots and two others from Friends of Bethany flew to Boston. Coots told Surfer he met with a woman who was a double amputee, a woman who lost her leg, and a younger girl who may have to have her leg amputated because of the damage done by shrapnel.
"It was one of the most powerful experiences I've ever had in my life," Coots told Surfer. "I think we were definitely able to help out. One woman I met with was about my age and lost her right leg in the same place I lost mine. She was upset and depressed.
"When we first met, I spent an hour talking to her in the hospital. I basically ran through every bit of advice I could give her on being an amputee…It was pretty heavy, but I think her spirits were really lifted when we walked out of there…
"The whole thing was very emotional. After leaving the hospital one day, I was in the elevator and couldn't help but cry. But I think being there and being able to speak to victims was really important."
It helped Coots when an amputee visited him in the hospital as he faced life as an amputee. Now, he and Friends of Bethany are helping others in the same way.
For the entire interview with Coots, check out Surfer Magazine.
Top two photos from Mike Coots courtesy of Surfer Magazine; Coots surfing courtesy of Surfer Magazine.