BOSTON — The police officer who survived a showdown with the Boston Marathon bombing suspects left the hospital Friday and headed home with a bullet still in his body, nearly two months after the gun battle that severed one of his major arteries.
Officer Richard Donohue walked out of Boston's Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital on crutches, emerging with his wife to the applause of more than a dozen fellow Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority officers.
The 33-year-old MBTA officer spent about a month recovering at Spaulding. He's been coping with nerve damage that can make it painful to walk, and will continue to do outpatient rehab.
Donohue can take a few steps on his own now and can use a cane to walk. He said he feels his body is improving and that he drew inspiration by exercising at Spaulding alongside those who survived the April 15 bombings near the race's finish line.
"We're all on the same track. We all want to get better," he said. "We're all working hard to do so."
The officer said he's looking forward to being home so he can spend more time with his infant son, see his family's beagle, sleep in a bigger bed and have "a little more independence and a few less distractions."
But Donohue said he still has a long way to go before he makes a full recovery. While he wants to get back to work, he doesn't have a timetable for that yet.
His wife, Kim Donohue, said it will be a proud and tough day for her when he goes back to his job. She described the last two months as a "whirlwind" time when the family got offers of help from all over the world.
The officer said he has no memory of the April encounter on the streets of Watertown, Mass., between police and marathon bombing suspects Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.
Authorities have said the suspects and officers exchanged gunfire and the brothers also lobbed explosives at police in their attempt to escape.
Donohue also said he hasn't heard anything new on the investigation into who may have fired the bullet that pierced his groin and almost killed him. He has said in the past that it didn't matter to him if the bullet turned out to be from an officer's gun, saying officers did their jobs in the chaotic encounter that also resulted in 26-year-old Tamerlan Tsarnaev's death.
A spokeswoman for the Middlesex district attorney said the investigation into the shooting is ongoing.
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, is awaiting trial on federal charges that include use of a weapon of mass destruction to kill, an offense for which authorities could seek the death penalty.
MBTA Police Chief Paul MacMillan walked out of the hospital with the Donohues on Friday morning, before a convoy of police vehicles pulled away from the hospital to escort the couple home.
"It's just a remarkable story that he is where he is today," MacMillan said, adding that he looked forward to having Donohue back on duty.
"As soon as he's ready, we've got a uniform for him and we'll put him to work."
Friday also marked the day before the deadline to apply for aid from the primary victims' compensation fund, which has grown to more than $47 million since Boston Mayor Thomas Menino and Gov. Deval Patrick established it shortly after the April 15 attack.
The One Fund received 188 applications for funding by the end of the day Friday, according to deputy administrator Camille Biros. More applications were expected Saturday as the deadline arrived.
Donohue is among those eligible for aid, along with the more than 260 people injured in the bombings, the families of the three people who died that day, and the family of slain Massachusetts Institute of Technology Officer Sean Collier. Authorities have said the bombing suspects fatally shot Collier while they still were at large.
Jay Lindsay contributed to this report.