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Injured Couple Creates New Life After Bombing
The DiMartinos have spent the past year recovering from their Boston Marathon bombing injuries and building a future together.
Pete and Rebekah DiMartino moments after they said their 'I dos' in Asheville, N.C., on Friday, April 4. “We are blessed by all of our friends and family for everything that they have done through the past year. Everybody has had our backs and it’s been absolutely incredible,” Pete later said at the reception. “This is amazing to have everybody that we love here and to be able to share our wedding and our relationship and our struggles with so many people,” Rebekah said, her voice shaking. “We have a long recovery to go but with people that are here in this room, we can do it.”
Pete assists Rebekah on March 23 at their home in Richmond, Texas, with the special leg crutch she used to help her walk down the wedding aisle. Surviving the bombing confirmed the couple's depth of love for one another and Pete moved to Texas in recent months to be with his now wife. "I think now we can conquer anything," Rebekah said. "Pete has seen me at my absolute worst and loved me."
Pete and Rebekah practice dancing with the special leg crutch she used to help her walk and dance during their wedding. The couple has tried to keep a positive attitude during the many trials they've encountered after the bombing. “The relationship with Rebekah has become so strong because of everything that we have gone through and a lot of my relationships in general have strengthened because of this,” Pete said. “I also feel like we have been given a gift, a second chance to be the best people that we can be.”
Rebekah with her son Noah at the home of Rebekah's parents in Richmond, Texas, on March 23. Noah recently asked if Rebekah was going to have to get a “metal leg,” and when she told him probably, he cried. “It broke my heart because I know that this is the best thing for me,” Rebekah said. “I just want Noah to understand that it’s OK, everything is OK, but he is having a really hard time.”
Rebekah pulls out the various medicines she takes daily. She spends nearly $800 a month on medication and her medical bills tally more than $1 million. Charitable donations and the One Fund set up by Massachusetts authorities haven’t provided enough funds to cover the bill. Rebekah figures they will be paying off the bills for a long time.
Rebekah has had 16 surgeries to try and salvage her left leg, which was seriously wounded in the Boston Marathon attacks - but it hasn't worked. An attempt right before Christmas to stand on her foot for the first time since the bombings made her feel like her bones were shattering -- the same sensation she had on April 15. "I can't remember the last time that I wasn't in pain. It's a constant nagging pain and sometimes it's really bad," she said. She is planning for the amputation. It will be a new life for her, but one she is ready to embrace. "My leg is not my life," she said.
Noah at his grandparents' house on March 23 in Richmond, Texas. He has struggled to do activities that he did before the bombing, such as riding a bike. But living with Pete in the couple's new home has helped him feel better and he seems happier, Rebekah said. “He's very excited for us to be a family and to have a house because he hasn't had ‘normal’ in a long time,” she said.
Pete makes pens for his groomsmen in his in-laws garage in Richmond, Texas, on March 23. Pete takes care of the needs of Noah and Rebekah, and works on decorating the family's new home. It keeps him very busy, but he will be looking for a job soon. "We live in almost like a controlled chaos state," he said.
Rebekah and Pete in their new home in Richmond, Texas, on March 23. The couple has mixed feelings about the attack: "It's still the best and worst day of our lives,” Rebekah said. The best, Rebekah said, because it made the couple -- then dating long distance less than a year -- realize the depth of their love, sparking Pete’s proposal to Rebekah, his move from upstate New York to Texas, and his forming a close bond with Noah, who now calls him “pops.”
“I said, ‘You’re my best friend and I love you.' I couldn’t get anything else out, I was shaking,” Pete DiMartino said of his proposal, which came in Oct. 2013 about one year after they started dating.
Rebekah greets her then boyfriend Pete after he arrives from Rochester, N.Y., in July 2013 in Houston. Rebekah's mother Tina Gregory, left, and sister Allie Gregory stand behind her. It was Pete's first visit to Texas since the bombing, and the couple had to confront the harshness of each other's injuries. “I saw [them on this trip] for the first time, really the first time since it all happened, and it was really hard," Pete said. "It was kind of gut-wrenching. I didn’t know what to do.”
Rebekah sits in a chair behind an exercise bike instead of on the bike seat to keep pressure off her left leg during a physical therapy session in July 2013 in Katy, Texas. The cloth over her left leg is to keep her healing wounds from abrading on the bike. She had to later stop physical therapy when her doctors determined she would need to wear a device to get her foot into a neutral position - rather than stuck pointed down - if she hoped to ever walk on it again.
Rebekah winces in pain during a physical therapy session July 2013 in Katy, Texas, as her damaged leg and foot are massaged by physical therapist Andrew Hyde to help break up scar tissue.
Pete shows Rebekah in July 2013 how to climb stairs with a crutch inside a model home similar to the one they had built in Richmond, Texas. “After this whole thing happened, it was a lot harder for me just because of the fact that that's when I really needed him to be close,” Rebekah said “I’ve missed him so much. … It feels good for him to finally be here and us moving forward on our plans.”
'Get well soon' messages fill Rebekah's cast. She has expanded her support network over the year by penning a blog and sharing her daily highs and lows on a Facebook page. "If I can help other people to get through their days then that gets me through mine, just knowing that I’m making a difference to someone," Rebekah said.
Rebekah in June at her parents' house in Richmond, Tex. She is believed to have been the last patient connected to the Boston bombings released from hospital when she was discharged on June 10. She spent 56 days total in hospitals in Boston and Houston, near her home. Her case is rare even among the more seriously wounded: while amputees are moving ahead with prosthesis training and others are recovering in rehabilitation, she is stuck many steps back, wondering what will happen with her leg. “I have a leg today, but I could not have it tomorrow,” Rebekah said.
Pete DiMartino talks about his leg injuries and his recovery at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital in Charlestown, Mass., in May 13, 2013. DiMartino lost 90 percent of his right Achilles' tendon and suffered multiple broken bones in his ankles. He went to the marathon to cheer on his mother, who was competing in the city's iconic road race. In addition to the Achilles and ankle injuries, DiMartino suffered second-degree burns on his left leg and back, and had shrapnel buried in both legs.