She had lost so much blood, her body went into shock and she needed to be resuscitated inside an elevator on the way to an operating room.

"I, without a doubt, believe that [North] was my angel, and she still is," Brannock says. Tears, as they often do, spill from her green-blue eyes. "Right before she had come over and grabbed my hand, I closed my eyes and I could feel myself slipping away."

The next day, as armed guards stood watch over the front doors of the medical center, Downing — still wearing black running shorts and a fleece that she had borrowed — kept vigil at Brannock's bedside while taking breaks to visit her other daughter at another hospital in the city.

Outside the intensive-care unit, family and friends of other bombing victims crowded together on a series of padded blue benches lined along a sunny hallway.

In all, more than 260 men, women and children were injured in the attack. Three were killed.

Brannock spent 50 days in the Boston hospital, while other victims were discharged days and weeks earlier. The decision to save her right leg, rather than amputate part of it, prolonged her stay.

Even as doctors cared for her, she was overwhelmed by the fear that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who was initially treated at the same hospital, "would get out and find the survivors and try to finish us off, or get out and blow the hospital up."

Talking with an FBI victim specialist — who said the suspect was shackled to his bed, sedated and under constant watch — helped to comfort her. A hospital psychologist and social workers allowed Brannock to process her fears, although the anxiety returned when she passed Tsarnaev's unit on her way to surgery.

When Brannock headed home, nurses threw her a surprise party and gave her an elaborate scrapbook made of purple fabric and filled with photos of her stay. They lined the hallways and applauded as she left the hospital in her wheelchair.

She was the last bombing victim to be discharged.

'A normal life'

The surgeries — more than a dozen in all — continued through the summer; in early August she was at Maryland Shock Trauma Center for a 10-hour procedure, the third attempt to reconstruct her right leg with transplanted muscle and tissue. Five days after the surgery, she was still attached to a heart monitor, an intravenous line and a machine that measured her oxygen levels.

Hanging by her bedside was a periwinkle silk scarf accented with white, yellow and black — a gift from North, with whom Brannock was reunited two months earlier at a local rehab hospital. The scarf, purchased by North in Paris, was her second-favorite; the clothing she was wearing at the marathon, including a yellow cardigan and green scarf, was collected as evidence by the FBI.

The scarf was just one of the keepsakes by Brannock's bedside at Shock Trauma — items that represented the support she had received from loved ones and strangers. She held on to a black-and-white polka-dot doll with pink hair, from her brother-in-law's family, and a shaggy stuffed dog. A card on the hospital room wall mirrored her optimism: "The barn's burnt down. Now I can see the moon."

On her wrist she wore three rubber bracelets: one from a surgeon said, "Beastmode," and the others, "Be Strong Brannock" and "Be Strong," were for the nonprofits set up for her recovery funds.

Some of the keepsakes, which she likened to "security blankets," also came with her to the operating room, as doctors fought to save her right leg. After the bombing, that leg lost so much tissue and muscle, it looked as if she had been bitten by a shark. But she had one strong artery in the leg, and in the months between surgeries, new pathways developed to carry blood to and from her foot.

She's grateful to her doctors and medical team, for their dedication in saving her right leg — even though it meant a longer hospital stay in Boston and required subsequent surgeries.

"It means I am going to have a normal life, a more normal life than I would without any of these surgeries," she says. "I think it's going to prove to me that down the road I can handle anything because I have been able to get through this."

'This has happened'

Still, there are dark moments for Brannock.