Jaymi Cohen always admired her older sister, Ilana. She was a good athlete, excelled in school and had the best, most stylish clothes. Jaymi took all her cues from Ilana, following in her sister’s footprints by playing lacrosse and basketball and now on April 17, she will continue that tradition by running the 2017 Boston Marathon.
In what seems a role reversal, however, it was the younger Cohen who was Ilana’s inspiration to first join the MassGeneral Hospital for Children’s (MGHfC)pediatric cancer team, Fighting Kids’ Cancer ... One Step at a Time after Jaymi was injured during the attacks at the 2013 marathon.
On April 15, 2013, Jaymi, then 19, and her Tufts University lacrosse teammates joined hundreds of spectators in Boston’s annual tradition, cheering marathon finishers on Boylston Street. They found an ideal spot in front of the Forum restaurant. Minutes later, Jaymi heard two explosions only seconds apart. She ran – and saw her legs bleeding.
EMTs rushed Jaymi to the MGH where Mindy Sherman, MD, pediatric attending physician, and Sylvia Romm, MD, a resident, removed debris from 40-to-50 dime-sized wounds covering both of her legs while keeping her parents calm. The care Sherman provided in the midst of a chaotic situation has spurred a lifelong connection.
“I didn’t expect to build a relationship with the doctors, we had no connection to MGH before the 2013 bombings,” says Ilana. “But they stay in contact with our whole family and continue to give Jaymi the best care.”
Ilana has run to support other charity marathon teams in the past, however, in September 2013, after learning about the MGHfC team, the then 23-year-old, knew she had found the most fitting way to pay tribute to the staff who cared for Jaymi while raising funds to support the care of other pediatric patients. During the past three years, she has forged new friendships with fellow runners, MGH staff and team coach Dan Fitzgerald, giving her additional inspiration to tackle 26.2 miles for the fourth year.
“This year will be special though; I’ll have Jaymi by my side. She’s one of the strongest people and hardest working people I know. I really look up to Jaymi, even though she is younger, and it's amazing to see how far she's come after such a life-changing event,” says Ilana. The sisters have taken up Friday night sleepovers, Saturday long runs, and spin classes to train, and compete, with each other. “When Jaymi texts me about her morning workout, I push myself that much harder in my own training that day.
Jaymi admits, “I’m jealous of how fast Ilana is but see it as extra motivation to push through the cold weather. It’s important for me to use my experience to help others. Running the marathon will not only support kids with cancer, but will help me heal as I follow Ilana’s lead over the finish line.”
This story is part of a series that MGH will publish in advance of the 2017 marathon featuring the Pediatric Oncology and Emergency Response Teams. In addition, individuals will run for the Miles for Mass General Program, which raises funds for hospital programs that are close to their hearts – including Botswana Oncology Global Outreach, Caring for a Cure, Cystic Fibrosis, Down Syndrome and the Lurie Center for Autism.