both were runners, they were enjoying this event as
spectators. They stopped at the finish line to cheer
on the runners completing the 26. 2 mile course.
Two bombs, which contained BB-like pellets and
nails that exploded 12 seconds apart near the finish
line on Boylston Street, abruptly changed their lives.
According to the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation,
the bombs exploded from pressure cookers hidden
inside backpacks. The blasts killed three spectators
and left an estimated 264 injured, with 17 people,
including Ms. Kensky and Mr. Downes, requiring
Mr. Downes has no recollection of the blasts. “I
was in and out of consciousness. I have snapshots of
what happened that day, but everything I know is
from Jess retelling it,” he said. Mr. Downes and his
wife, an oncology nurse at Massachusetts General
Hospital, Boston, each sustained grievous injuries
that, in both cases, resulted in the amputation of their
left leg below the knee. They suffered a number of
other serious but less visible injuries, including ruptured eardrums, shrapnel wounds, impaired vision,
depression, anxiety, mild traumatic brain injury, and
post-traumatic stress disorder.
In the chaos that followed the blasts, the two were
transported to different hospitals. An ambulance carried Mr. Downes to Beth Israel Deaconess Medical
Center. Ms. Kensky went to Boston Medical Center
for her injuries, and for one day, neither patient knew
the condition of the other. “Jess and I first saw each
other two weeks after the bombing,” he said. “Her
team transported her to see me at Beth Israel.”
Mr. Downes’ injuries were less extensive than his
wife’s, and he has recovered more quickly. He is able
to move around with a prosthetic leg. Ms. Kensky’s
right leg, however, sustained considerable damage.
“Her Achilles heel was blown off, and her foot was
missing so many essential pieces,” her husband
explained. Walking was excruciating. Her right ankle
was so out of alignment that with each step, she splintered cartilage and bone. In addition, a painful knot
of bone at the end of her amputated left leg—a heterotopic ossification—made wearing the prosthetic
almost unbearable. This excess bone growth in soft
tissue is common among Iraq and Afghanistan war
amputees. Two years after the bombing, Ms. Kensky,
who her husband said has endured “so many operations we’ve lost count,” had her right leg amputated
below the knee.
Both Mr. Downes and Ms. Kensky wish they had
a timetable that would allow them to map out their
recovery, but they have been forced to be patient. “We
wish we knew that it will take X number of days, and
then we can move to the next step, but the body has
its own time frame,” Mr. Downes said.
The young couple has stayed in close contact with
other Boston bombing victims who underwent ampu-
tations. “The feeling that we all have, I think, can
only be understood by those who have experienced
it,” Mr. Downes said. “We get to see them whenever
we go home to Boston. We will forever share a bond
The couple will always feel profoundly grateful to
the Boston first responders and the medical personnel
who took care of them immediately after the bomb-
ing. “Boston is the mecca of medicine,” Mr. Downes
said. “The doctors and nurses were incredibly helpful.
They took care of us. They took care of our families.
They ran errands for our families. We remain very
close to the Boston clinicians.”
Likewise, they will always be grateful to the cli-
nicians and veterans who continue to provide their
support at Walter Reed. “We feel so blessed that here
at Walter Reed, we are accepted and understood,”
Mr. Downes said.
“The kinship we feel with active duty patients as a result of our
experience here is eternal,” Mr. Downes said. “Before this happened to
us, we had an appreciation for those who served our country, but we
tended to have those thoughts as clichés. Now it’s very real for us.”