Thursday, May 22, 2014

Running on Love

Patrick was a runner.  When he met Jessica, it wasn’t her personality or even her fabulous smile that he noticed first.  It was her legs ‒ because she was a runner, too.  Jessica had just come from the gym and stopped by her friend’s apartment to say hi.  There, she was introduced to Patrick.  He was 22, 2 years younger than she was, and he became tongue-tied immediately.  Not being prepared for an extended encounter with the new guy on the couch, Jessica declined her friend’s invitation to stay for dinner and made a quick exit.  But the seed was planted.

As it turned out, Patrick and Jessica began working in the same part of town and kept bumping into each other.  Finally, he gathered up the courage to ask her out.  They began dating, and his nervousness melted away as he found he could make her laugh.  Their real connection, though, happened when they started running together.

Several years later, the pair had weathered a long-distance relationship, graduate school, career changes, and eventually got married.  Patrick, warm, generous, and private, was a psychology doctoral candidate planning to work with traumatized children.  Jessica, an energetic transplant from California, was an oncology nurse who connected easily with terminal patients.  The newlyweds had been living for some time in Boston, a city they both loved, but were leaving soon for San Francisco, where Patrick was set to begin a psychology fellowship.  They still shared a love for running, and decided to attend the Boston Marathon one more time before starting their new life on the other side of the country.

The events of the Boston Marathon bombing are known to many, but for Patrick and Jessica, the horrors of that day were firsthand.  They were both victims of the first blast.  Not knowing how badly hurt she was herself, Jessica’s nursing instincts spurred her to immediately tourniquet Patrick’s injured leg with her purse straps.  The back of her own clothes were on fire, and after a stranger pressed her to the pavement to extinguish the flames, four men hurriedly loaded her onto a stretcher. 

Initially taken to separate hospitals, they each underwent emergency surgery.  In the end, both lost a leg, with Jessica’s remaining leg needing a great deal of reconstruction as well.  No other couple had sustained such similar injuries and both survived.  Two weeks later, they were reunited in adjoining hospital beds.  The tragedy they had been part of and the pain and difficulty they had yet to experience would be immeasurable, but at least, somehow, they were still together.

The uplifting epilogue to these horrific events was the speed and generosity with which people moved to help, from family members to complete strangers.  A friend created a “Help for Patrick and Jess” website within a few hours, featuring their engagement photo and a plea for anything anyone could do.  People didn’t hesitate. 

Within two weeks, more than 13,000 people had contributed more than $840,000 to help.  Their friends brought them hundreds of meals, which continued to arrive months after Patrick and Jessica returned home from the hospital.  When they moved from their third-floor walkup to a more easily accessible space, the moving company refused to accept payment.  Employees of the hospital where Jessica worked, from housekeeping to management, donated their own vacation hours to keep her employed, enough that she’ll be on the clock until 2017 and still receiving the health insurance she and her husband both had through her job.

The most difficult thing for each of them was being physically unable to tend to the other.  To help with this, a non-profit organization called NEADS, which trains assistance dogs for people with disabilities, gave Patrick and Jessica a black Labrador retriever named Rescue who has truly helped enhance the quality of their lives.

This year, on the one-year anniversary of the tragedy, Jessica and Patrick participated in the Handcycle division of the Boston Marathon, no small feat considering that they were among the worst injured and last to leave the hospital following their injuries.  As they rebuild their lives, they are deeply aware of the incredible spirit of giving that has characterized every day since. 

The outpouring of kindness, generosity and love that Patrick and Jessica experienced is the Live to Give Mindset in action.  It’s when we seek ways to help and empower others with no hidden agenda.  If you’re looking for more love, kindness and even abundance in your life, the process begins by giving these very same things away to others first.  The best way to recycle love is to practice it every day.

Until next week...

Live Your Dreams!

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