Patrick Downes and Jessica KenskyThousands were there for the challenge.  Every year rookies and running enthusiasts, as well as some of the world’s finest athletes, participate in the Boston Marathon.  Both physically and mentally grueling, every person, I’m sure, has a unique story as to why they take part, and the journey that got them to the starting line.  Characteristics of courage and overcoming challenges are common themes.  This year, nobody knew those attributes would be pushed to their limits in a vastly different way.

Several hours into the race, two bombs exploded near the finish line, killing three people and leaving more than 180 others injured.  Among those hurt were Patrick Downes and Jessica Densky, a couple who married just last August.  They had each run the Boston Marathon in 2005.  Strangers back then, they would meet a year later and start dating.  They were at the finish line that Monday to cheer on the runners and reminisce about where they had been.

Both were loved by many who knew them.  Patrick earned the nickname of “Jesus” in high school, because of his compassion and desire to help others in need.  Jess is said to have the “spirit of a lion”.  A good friend of theirs describes their relationship as “one of the greatest love stories she has ever witnessed”.  When one of the bombs went off, Patrick was standing behind Jess with his arms wrapped around her waist.

Their injuries would mean that they both had their left leg amputated below the knee.  A fundraising site has been set up online to help with the upcoming expenses of home modifications, prosthetic legs, physical therapy, and out of pocket medical bills.

The goal is to raise one million dollars.

When I last checked the site, the total was closing in on $780,000.

Both Patrick and Jess work in the medical field.  She is an oncology nurse at Massachusetts General Hospital; he is finishing up a doctorate from the Massachusetts School of Professional Psychology.  They will need to draw on their expertise from both of these professions to effectively deal with what lies ahead for them.  I’ve read that Patrick has already told his father that he thinks this experience might help him be a better psychologist.

Not many people really get it.  The process of adjusting to a disability is not a pyramid of progress and overcoming pain.  There is not one day when people “arrive” at acceptance and never experience anguish over their situation again.  Progress is gradual, with mountains and missteps.

Additionally, the process of adjustment does not belong only to those who acquire a disability after an illness or an accident.   I will be adjusting to my disability for as long as I live.  The progression will never be complete.   I’ve had people tell me that, since I have never known any different than this life the way that I live it, there is not been anything I have had to adjust to.

They are just plain wrong.

Yes, there are disability support groups.  And I count several people with disabilities among my closest friends.  Each is beneficial, yet each experience is unique.  Even with the bonds that I have, there are still some days when not many people truly get it.  The world of disability can be devastatingly lonely, in ways that I can’t completely convey.

Patrick Downes and Jess Kensky have recently entered that world, each needing a prosthetic leg.  They will get angry.  Frustration and fear will be unwelcome guests in their lives.  They will have hard days.  Some might be so difficult that the best course of action is to sit back and just let life suck for a while.

But the thing is, they have a shared experience.  Not only in their disability, but also in the circumstance of how that disability came to be.  They each have someone who will get it.  That is rare, and useful, and will serve them well from this point forward.

Both of them had their left leg amputated below the knee.  They can lean on each other.

And in the world of disability, that is worth more than a million bucks.