The University of Arizona

UA Grad Injured in Boston Marathon Bombing Makes Triumphant Comeback

By Alexis Blue, University Relations - Communications | April 23, 2014
UA alumna and bombing survivor Jessica Kensky placed first in the Boston Marathon's women's handcycle division. (Image: ASSOCIATED PRESS)
UA alumna and bombing survivor Jessica Kensky placed first in the Boston Marathon's women's handcycle division. (Image: ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Jessica Kensky, who lost her leg in last year's Boston Marathon, returned to compete in the race this week, winning in the women's handcycle division.

It's been a year since the day that forever changed the lives of University of Arizona alumna Jessica Kensky and her husband, Patrick Downes.

The two were newlyweds, married just six months, when they attended the 2013 Boston Marathon as spectators. They were standing near the finish line when the first of two bombs went off.

The explosion cost them each their left leg. They were among 16 people to lose limbs in the blast.

One year and nearly 30 surgeries later, Kensky, 33, and Downes, 30, returned to the Boston Marathon on Monday to compete in the race's handcycle division. The couple crossed the finish line hand in hand.

Completing the 26.2-mile course in 2 hours, 14 minutes and 13 seconds, Kensky placed first in the women's handcycle division, and Downes placed 17th in the men's division.

It has been a long road for Kensky, Downes and the other survivors of last year's tragic bombing, which killed three people and injured more than 260.

Through it all, Kensky, who graduated from the UA in in 2004 with a bachelor's degree in women's studies, and Downes have remained by one another's side, with support from family, friends, hospital staff and even perfect strangers.

"As equally overwhelming as the evil that day, was how incredibly good these people were," Kensky recently told the Boston Globe about those who have helped her and her husband. "How do you thank people for this? How do we deserve this?"

The couple's story captured hearts across the nation last year and a Help for Patrick and Jess website continues to be a place where people can offer their support and donations to the couple.

Kensky has been unable to return to her job as a nurse since the bombing. Her right foot was also badly hurt in the blast, and she now wears a brace on her right leg and continues to struggle with mobility. Meanwhile, Downes' injuries forced him to abandon his plan to enroll in a pre-doctoral program in San Francisco, where the couple had once planned to relocate.

The pair now live in a handicapped-accessible apartment in the Boston suburbs with Kensky's sister, who moved from California to help care for them, and an 80-pound black Labrador retriever named Rescue, a trained service dog who helps to keep them physically active.

You can read more about Kensky and Downes and their inspirational journey in this article in the Boston Globe.