Brothers Injured in Bombing Recovering Together at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital

Friends and family help wheel brothers Paul (left) and JP Norden (right) into a conference room for a press event at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital in Charlestown on Monday, May 13, 2013. The brothers both lost a limb and sustained other injuries in the Boston Marathon bombings on April 15.

Brothers JP and Paul Norden reunited last Friday at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, where they are both undergoing care for injuries sustained in the April 15 Boston Marathon bombings. Used to seeing each other several times a day before the explosion that left them both without one leg, the brothers were glad for the reunion, though it will be short-lived—Paul is expected to be released from Spaulding soon for out-patient care, while JP will remain behind.

“I can’t even describe…” Paul, 31, said when asked what it was like to be back with his brother. “I didn’t see him for 14 days, and it was so tough. I see him every day of my life. So it’s just amazing to be back to normal.”

JP, 33, said of their reunion: “It’s the best thing ever.”

At a press conference held Monday at Spaulding’s new location in the Charlestown Navy Yard, the Stoneham natives spoke about the many emotions they had experienced over the past month, the ups and downs of rehabilitation and their special bond as brothers—which comes with a healthy side of competition. Paul even joked that the hospital that treated him after the bombing, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, was better than Brigham and Women’s Hospital, which treated JP. (Both brothers had nothing but good things to say about their respective medical teams.)

At Spaulding, the brothers are able to visit each other’s rooms, and Paul said, once he’s been discharged, he plans to visit JP every day.

“Unfortunately, I do believe it does help [to be recovering together]. I’d rather it not be that way, but it is that way,” Paul said. “We’re going to work hard and get through this.”

The pair also said they were grateful for the overwhelming support of their family, friends, doctors and first responders—as well as people they had never met who have rallied around them to raise funds or just to say hi.

“The managers must go nuts here [at Spaulding]—we’ve got 30 visitors a day,” JP said. “They’re the ones that keep us positive.”

“I’ve had Facebook people from Britain asking how I’m doing. It’s really been nice to know that people care,” he added.

The brothers said they are concerned about friends who were also injured in the bombing but that they were focusing on their own recovery.

“We think of all the other friends of ours that got hurt, but we have to focus on ourselves getting better first,” Paul said.

JP and Paul Norden were spectators, waiting for a friend to finish the Boston Marathon, when the two explosions went off. The moments after the explosions were “mayhem,” JP said. He did not talk much about the day of the bombing, calling the events “indescribable.”

“I remember everything. It was just a lot,” he said. “But I do remember everything.”

JP said he has not really been following news about the alleged bombers and the case against them, preferring instead to focus on his own recovery.

Paul spoke briefly of the perpetrators, saying, “I don’t even think of those cowards. I just don’t even want to acknowledge them. I don’t want them to have any air time.”

Dr. Ross Zafonte, one of the Spaulding physicians who has been treating the Norden brothers, spoke about their early recovery process and what’s next.

“We’ve been focused on getting them more functional, helping them begin to do things like transfer from a wheelchair, start to take steps with crutches, deal with issues such as pain, focus on wound healing,” he said. “When you have this kind of shock there are numerous medical and other issues that come to your system that need to be dealt with over time. That’s what the early focus has been.”

Later focus will be on helping the two men get their residual limbs into the best shape possible and to fit them for a prosthesis, Zafonte said.

“They talk about wanting to resume their competitive sporting life. We want to help them do that, so there may be variations in fit or type of prosthetic they need and specialized training to do what they do, to do what they enjoy doing,” he said.

Both brothers had done roofing work before their injuries—Paul had even worked on Spaulding, the very hospital where he was being treated. After being released from the hospital, they plan to go back to mom Liz’s home in Wakefield.

As for how their lives will look after that, the brothers said they aren’t sure.

“I don’t know how things are going to be after this,” JP said. “We’re just going to try to live life like it was and work out and in a year we’ll be playing basketball and doing something like we always did.”

Paul said one of the things he is most looking forward to is getting to see and walk his two dogs.

“I’ve had a couple bad days, but all the support—our family’s here constantly…” he said. “I’m ready to move on. I feel like myself. It’s just a different normal. It’s exciting to know I’m going home real soon.”

South End Patch