Erika Brannock's life was forever changed the day the bombs exploded at the Boston Marathon finish line in April. Part of her left leg was blown off, and her right leg was broken. She might have died if a stranger hadn't been there to provide critical care and support.
Brannock, 29, was discharged from Boston's Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center this week; she was the last patient injured in the attack to be released. As she returned home to Maryland, she thought about all she had overcome, the 11 surgeries she endured and the challenges she faces adjusting to her new normal.
The preschool teacher also spent a lot of time thinking about the woman who held her hand and tied a tourniquet around her severed limb. Brannock desperately wanted to find her hero.
On Monday night, CNN's Randi Kaye reported on Erika's journey and turned to AC360° viewers for help finding the woman who saved Brannock's life.
The only information available was that the good Samaritan's name was Joan and she was from California. We also had a photo showing the profile of the woman by Brannock's side after the blast. It wasn't a lot to go on.
Shortly after that story aired, there was a remarkable development: We found Joan! Well, technically, Joan found us. An e-mail sent to email@example.com arrived at 11:02 p.m. with the subject line, "That's me!"
The hero's name is actually Amanda North, and she is from California. In the confusion and mayhem, Brannock had heard the name "Joan," and North thought Brannock's name was "Irene."
North didn't see the segment air, but friends texted her telling her about our search. We also received e-mails from her niece, sister-in-law and another person confirming the identity of the woman in the photo.
North was at the marathon to cheer for her daughter, a student at Harvard. She told Kaye that her life was also transformed that fateful day, and it was Brannock who saved her.
On Wednesday, the two women will be reunited. Both are eager to meet. After surviving the chaotic aftermath of the attack together, they share a deep bond.
Don't miss Kaye's report on the emotional reunion at 8 and 10 p.m. ET on CNN.
If you'd like to help Brannock cover the cost of some of her medical bills, her friends have established the Erika Brannock Fund to collect donations.
Anderson Cooper goes beyond the headlines to tell stories from many points of view, so you can make up your own mind about the news. Tune in weeknights at 8 and 10 ET on CNN.
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