Two brothers who grew up in Stoneham, each of whom lost a leg in the Marathon bombing last month, engaged in playful competitive banter during a news conference Monday at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital in Boston, where they are receiving treatment for the first time under the same roof.
J.P. Norden, 33, praised the care he had received at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, the place where he was brought after the second of two explosions on April 15 blew off his lower right leg and caused severe burn and shrapnel injuries. His brother, Paul, 31, then took the microphone and declared with a smile, “I personally think Beth Israel is the best hospital,” referring to the place he received care.
The brothers also laughed when talking about reviving their basketball rivalry someday, even if aided by prosthestic legs or wheelchairs.
“In a year, we’ll play basketball,” said J.P., who joined his younger brother at Spaulding on Friday.
The two construction workers, the oldest of five children, said they have always been extremely close and share many of the same friends. In fact, the Norden brothers were part of a tight-knit group of six who came to watch the Marathon together last month and cheer on another childhood buddy from Stoneham, Mike Jefferson, who was running. All six friends were injured in the blast, including Marc Fucarile, who lost a leg and is at risk of losing his other leg. He remains hospitalized at Massachusetts General Hospital.
The other three were hospitalized with shrapnel and burn injuries, but have since been released. One of them, James “Bim” Costello, who was released from Spaulding on Saturday, came to the Monday press conference and watched his friends answer questions from the media.
Both brothers thanked the medical staffs at the hospitals where they have received care, and the public for the extreme generosity they have been shown. J.P. said he has experienced overwhelming kindness from people that has deeply moved him.
“It’s probably changed me for the better,” he said, despite the severity of his injuries -- he likely faces more surgeries.
Meanwhile, his younger brother is besting J.P. in one category: Returning home. While J.P. still has significant time ahead at the rehabilitation hospital, Paul is scheduled to be released from Spaulding -- a brand-new facility in Charlestown where he once worked on the roof -- and transported back to his mother’s Wakefield apartment later this week.
He is working on how to manage stairs because she lives in a second-floor unit. Once back home, Paul said he looks forward to walking -- even if in a wheelchair -- his two beloved boxers named Bella and Baxter.Patricia Wen can be reached at @globe.com.