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MBTA officer, wounded in Boston Marathon gun battle, tells Blarney Breakfast-goers blood donations saved him

New Hampshire Union Leader

March 11. 2016 12:53PM
PAT GROSSMITH/UNION LEADER Mayor Ted Gatsas reads a proclamation in honor of Mass. Bay Transportation Authority Transit Police Sgt. Richard "Dic" Donohue, far right, as Manchester Police Chief Nick Willard looks on. Donohue, the featured speaker at the 16th Annual Bob Baines Blarney Breakfast, was shot in the leg in a shootout with the Boston Marathon bombers. He survived after receiving 46 pints of blood. 

MANCHESTER — A Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority transit police sergeant who almost died when he was wounded in a shootout with the Boston Marathon bombers in 2013 told those at Friday’s 16th annual Bob Baines Blarney Breakfast that emergency workers and blood donations were responsible for his survival.

Sgt. Richard “Dic” Donohue was working an overtime shift on April 15, 2013 when the Boston Marathon bombers struck, killing three and wounding 264 others.

Three days later, his friend, Sean Collier, 26, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology campus police officer, was shot dead in his patrol car by the bombers.

The following day, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, one of the two brothers responsible for the attacks, was killed in a shootout with police in Watertown, Mass.

About 200 to 300 rounds were fired in the gunfight with Tsarnaev and his brother, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, then 19. The brothers also tossed bombs at pursuing officers.

In that firefight, Donohue was struck in the leg, severing his femoral artery.

"Immediately, I started to bleed out," he told a crowd of 500 attending Blarney Breakfast at the Radisson. "I needed life-saving care, CPR."

For 40 minutes, officers and then emergency personnel performed CPR on him. At the hospital, he underwent hours of surgery requiring 46 pints of blood.

Doctors gave him a 2 percent chance of survival. He survived, he said, thanks to the hospital staff, the police officers who rushed to help him and firefighters and EMTs.

"I beat the odds to begin a long journey of recovery," he said.

Donohue said he knew about the American Red Cross, but never really had thought about it and had not been a blood donor prior to being shot.

"But they were there for me when I needed them," he said. "I needed that blood. I needed it fast. I needed it to live. Those anonymous blood donors are the heroes in my life."

Since June 2013, he and his wife Kim, a 2000 graduate of Exeter High School, have volunteered and become spokesmen for the Red Cross. The two also have sponsored several large blood drives.

When people show up at those blood drives, he said, it brings the community together.

"Like those famous words: Boston strong. Boston strong," he said to a standing ovation.

Donohue recently announced he will retire from the MBTA because of the injuries he suffered in the gun battle. His recovery has been a long one. He spent two months in the hospital and rehabilitation center.

He has been an MBTA officer since 2010, and served as an officer in the U.S. Navy. He plans to teach criminal justice at a local college.

The Blarney Breakfast, which has raised about $1 million in the last 16 years, benefits the Special Olympics New Hampshire, the American Red Cross and the Shirley Brulotte Fund, established in memory of former Manchester Mayor Robert Baines’ sister, Shirley.

The fund helps refugees with their transition into America and is administered by the International Institute of New Hampshire.

Some of the proceeds from the event this year also will support Hope for Recovery, privately operated, peer-run recovery centers around the state.

Mayor Ted Gatsas asked attendees to contribute $10 for a bracelet in support of the program. He talked about the heroin/fentanyl epidemic in the city and across the nation, in which 47,000 people have lost their lives to opiate addiction.

The crowd was entertained by Christopher Duffley, a 14-year-old blind, autistic singer, who sang the national anthem and "When Irish Eyes Are Smiling," earning a standing ovation.

The Young Irelanders, who have performed for many heads of state including U.S. presidents, presidents of Ireland and the Queen of England, also performed.

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