Boston couple faces amputation rehab, together

Posted April 23, 2013, at 9:24 a.m.
Patrick and Jessica Kensky Downes from Jessica’s Facebook page
KHN
Patrick and Jessica Kensky Downes from Jessica’s Facebook page

Only the most seriously injured of the 188 marathon bombing patients remain hospitalized. Patrick Downes and Jessica Kensky Downes are among them. The couple was cheering runners near the finish line of the Boston Marathon when the explosions threw them apart. Patrick and Jessica each lost the lower part of their left legs.

Friends are having a hard time reconciling this news with memories of the joyful pair who married just last August. Smiles in photos of Jessica and Patrick jump off the screen.

“But that’s not just a photograph,” says Leslie Kelly, who watched Jessica grow up just outside Sacramento, Calif. “Those two are the happiest, most optimistic, wonderful people,” continues Kelly, which provides “a real good foundation for both of them going forward.”

Jessica’s right foot was also badly damaged in the blast, but the family has told friends it looks like it can be saved. And Patrick’s third surgery went well. Family members declined requests for an interview, but a few friends are sharing their story.

“When Patrick came to, he asked if the Red Sox had won,” says Boston College buddy Tom Treacy. “It sounded like they were certainly in good spirits.”

Friends and strangers have donated more than $500,000 in four days to help the couple cope with whatever comes next.

“They do know that people out there are coming together for them and I think it’s really helped them,” says Kelly who set up one of two online funds. “They’re very courageous.”

Patrick and Jessica were taken to different hospitals but have spoken by phone. Both work in health care. Jessica, 32, is a nurse at Massachusetts General Hospital. Patrick, 29, is finishing a graduate degree at the Massachusetts School of Professional Psychology.

“We are praying for him and will support him in any way we can as he regains his strength and is able to return to his studies,” says the school’s president, Dr. Nicholas Covino, in a statement.

Friends posting messages to the couple remind them they still have strong minds, bodies and arms for hugging. Some offer dinners. Others urge Patrick and Jessica, who are both runners, to get back on the road with expected prosthetic legs. Treacy, from Manhattan, is among the friends headed to Boston to help map the coming weeks, months and years.

“Given where we are,” says Treacy, “and the fact that we’re only four days into what’s going to be a pretty long road, I think there are a lot of reasons to be positive.”

Not the least of which, adds Treacy, is that Patrick and Jessica will face rehab, and all the challenges of the future, together.

This story is part of a partnership that includes WBUR, NPR and Kaiser Health News. Kaiser Health News is an editorially independent program of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan health policy research and communications organization not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.

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