Boston Marathon bombing survivors Jessica Kensky and Patrick Downes will be signing copies of their book Rescue & Jessica: A Life-Changing Friendship at the Disabled Sports USA’s booth at the Boston Abilities Expo on Saturday, September 14th from 11 am to 1 pm. Based on a real-life partnership, this heartening story of the love and teamwork between a girl and her Service Dog will illuminate and inspire. Rescue thought he’d grow up to be a Seeing Eye dog — it’s the family business, after all. When he gets the news that he’s better suited to being a Service Dog, he’s worried that he’s not up to the task. Then he meets Jessica, a girl whose life is turning out differently than she’d imagined it, too. Now Jessica needs Rescue by her side to help her accomplish everyday tasks. And it turns out that Rescue can help Jessica see after all: a way forward, together, one step at a time.
In Rescue and Jessica: A Life-Changing Friendship, readers will follow Jessica as she adjusts to life with prosthetics, wheelchairs, and crutches. Co-author Jessica Kensky, a double amputee and survivor of the Boston Marathon bombing, says, “Rescue brings so much joy and support to our lives. My husband, Patrick, and I wanted to write Rescue’s story to share with children the love we have for our own companion, to celebrate the extraordinary and varied abilities of Service Dogs, and to give insight into what it means to live with a disability. We can show them how dogs can play a special role in helping their disabled owners live full, happy lives.”
Jessica Kensky and Patrick Downes were married in 2012 and were injured during the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013. Rescue joined them several months later. Their story has been featured by many national media outlets as well as in feature films and documentaries, and their inspiring efforts to educate the public by sharing their personal stories of healing have touched millions of people around the world. About Rescue and Jessica: A Life-Changing Friendship, their first picture book, they say, “We hope this story inspires you to celebrate others the way we have been celebrated. Making this book has been therapeutic, and we hope you enjoy the story as much as we enjoyed telling it.”
Another survivor, Roseann Sdoia, will be signing copies of her book Perfect Strangers: Friendship, Strength, and Recovery After Boston’s Worst Day” at the Abilities Expo throughout the weekend as well. Sdoia, who had to have her right leg amputated above the knee after the tragic event. Less than eight months after the Boston Marathon bombing, Sdoia joined Disabled Sports USA at the 2013 Ski Spectacular in Breckenridge, Colorado, which she describes as an amazing experience. “It was early on in my recovery, so it was an emotional experience for me in so many ways,” she said. “If I was going to try something, this is the best place to do it, given all the support and equipment that is provided.” She would return to Ski Spec in 2015 to try snowboarding with Reggie Showers.
She has tried a number of adaptive sports over the years. “Trying to find the right niche for me the past five years has been challenging,” she said. She is taking a yoga class, which she finds rejuvenating. “As an amputee, you don’t stretch as much so this has been good for my posture and back.” Sdoia also compliments the instructor at being very good about infusing adaptive methods for her. In addition, Sdoia is currently doing water aerobics. “You don’t have to wear a prosthesis in the pool, so it gives me some freedom,” she said.
One of Sdoia’s accomplishments was completing the Empire State Building Run-Up, the annual New York City event that has participants racing up the 86 flights of stairs (1,576 stairs in all). She learned about the event from her mentor and trained for it using the Bunker Hill Monument. In February 2017, she completed it with her husband, Mike, who happened to be one of the first responders to her the day of the bombing (they married in October 2017). “It took about an hour… it was more like a climb than a run up.”
Also before bombing, she struggled with the work/life balance. Now, it is more about a life/work balance. “I like trying new things and taking advantage of opportunities. I find things that give me joy in life and I want to help others.” Like many in Boston, Sdoia went to the marathon for years as she often knew somebody in it. “It was my favorite day in the city,” she said. “It was a sign of Spring.”
Sixteen individuals lost limbs as a result of the Boston Marathon bombing that took place on April 15, 2013, including Kensky, Downes, and Sdoia. All three individuals have participated in adaptive sports through Disabled Sports USA’s Boston Strong Adaptive Sports Initiative.
NOTE: The 2019 Boston Abilities Expo will take place September 13-15 at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center. The event is free and open to the public. Copies of both books will be available for purchase on site at the Disabled Sports USA booth. For more information about the Abilities Expo, visit https://www.abilities.com/boston/. For more information about Disabled Sports USA, visit www.disabledsportsusa.org.