In June 2016, just days before Matt Wetherbee was due to propose to his girlfriend, tragedy struck. Matt, who was about to turn 29, was injured during a routine play at his weekly men’s basketball game. As soon as his head was hit hit the wall, he knew something was terribly wrong.
“The defender stepped in and I tripped over his leg and the wall was, unfortunately, very close to the basket,” Matt, now 30, explained to PEOPLE. “I tripped and fell forward and I didn’t have enough time to brace my fall and I went head-first into the wall. I was conscious, and I knew something was immediately wrong because I couldn’t move anything.”
Matt suffered severe ligament damage to the upper portion of his spine, leaving him completely paralyzed from the shoulders down. It was a devastating blow to him and his fiance, Kaitlyn. The couple embarked on an intensive journey of treatment and therapy, hoping that one day Matt might be able to walk again.
Now, two years on, things are still difficult.
“We’re trying now to figure out how to navigate our new life, find our new normal, and we’re realizing the world is trying to adapt to the handicap population, but we’re still not there yet,” Kaitlyn, 30, explained. “We’re sick of hearing ‘no,’ or feeling like we couldn’t live our lives the way we want to. If you want something to happen, find a way to make it happen.”
So, in an extraordinary show of strength and determination, the pair decided to complete the Boston Marathon together. Unfortunately, the couple missed an “Athletes With Disabilities” application deadline – so they were not able to participate in the official event coming up on April 16. But through the advocacy and partnership of local company HOTSHOT, the couple was able to complete the entire Boston Marathon route the Monday before the event. They entitled their journey “Unfinished Business.”
To prepare for the event, Kaitlyn borrowed a racing chair and piled it with 50-pound bags of salt. As the weeks went by, she would increase her mileage and pile on the weight to simulate what it would be like to push Matt. Then, April 9, rolled around – it was time. The couple set out on the grueling and hilly marathon route, with friends and family lining the streets to cheer them on.
“That was definitely the best part for both of us. I was shocked to see how many people were there at the finish line,” Matt said. “We both got pretty emotional at the end. I cried, and that doesn’t happen often.”
To make an incredible day even better, HOTSHOT then presented the couple with a $25,000 check that will go to Matt’s physical therapy center, Journey Forward. He undergoes therapy here four times a week. According to its website:
“Journey Forward is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization dedicated to bettering the lives of those with spinal cord injuries or disability. We provide an intense, exercise based program working to achieve some of the most basic lifelong functions and benefits for our clients. Exercise is important to everyone and even more so for those living with paralysis.
At Journey Forward we focus on the clients’ weaknesses and work on coordinating the entire body in a very functional and complete style. Our clients will work on many different activities including gait training, load bearing, and full body neural stimulation. Working with individuals with Spinal Cord Injuries in this aggressive and functional manner has shown many benefits. We’re able to focus on client goals that can range from regaining lost function to simply receiving the normal benefits of exercise.”
The couple also recieved support from several sporting legends. One who turned up to see the couple finish the race was NHL legend, Ray Bourque. “Kaitlyn and Matt are an inspiration to all of us, completing their ‘unfinished business’ despite the many hurdles they have had to overcome,” Borque said, as reported by necn.com.
Matt has yet to ask Kaitlyn to marry him like he planned two years ago, but he has a few ideas in mind. “I want to be able to do it myself, with my own arms. Depending on how long that takes, we’ll see,” he explained.
“I ask him all the time, ‘When are you gonna make an honest woman out of me?’ ” Kaitlyn said. “We’re not in a rush, I feel like we’re married already. I’m not going anywhere.”