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They were playing eye tag across the high school gym, two All-State Basketball stars about to fall in love. Less than a year later Kayla and Josh were married. “We just knew,” said Kayla, smiling.

The young couple had their problems, but while living in their small apartment in Belpre, Ohio, little did they know life would take a tragic turn.

Josh was driving to work as usual. He was going around a turn, lost control and the next thing he remembers he was at Marietta Hospital. Josh had been pulled from the wreckage, 21 years old, never to walk again. A T7 paraplegic, he has no feeling from his chest down.

“We are not dumb, and we know the odds. Getting married young, then a tragic event, usually that is a double whammy,” said Kayla.

Kayla and Josh admit they had their problems. “I think the accident saved our marriage because before we were letting the small petty things tear us apart,” said Josh. “It just showed us how much we love each other, how much we truly mean to each other and how much we need each other,” he added.

Josh and kayla Gains pose for a photo in their home

Josh and Kayla Gains, both 24, of Vienna, W. Va., pose for a photo in their home on February 13, 2013. The Gains met when they were in high school, and quickly fell in love.

The Accident and Beyond

“It was a bittersweet moment. It was life changing, but I could have been dead and I was still alive. I was still able to see Kayla, my wife, again and I was able to see my daughter grow up,” said Josh.

Three months after the accident, Kayla gave birth to their daughter Jordyn.

Josh marvels at Kayla’s strength. “She had Jordyn three months later while she was still in school trying to finish her degree…. I just appreciate her a lot for all she did to finish up school and take care of Jordyn and stay by me through everything.  I mean, it took a lot,” said Josh.

Kayla, an energetic and positive individual by nature, had a breakdown. “It was ugly. I mean, I just wanted to sleep all day, I did not want to get out and do anything,” she said.

The letters started on Kayla’s first day of work at her new job. She opened the lunch Josh had packed for her to find a love note nicely folded with “Peanut” written on the outside.

“I’ve never missed a day,” said Josh. “It is just something nice and sweet so she knows I am thinking of her.”

Kayla appreciates the emotional support Josh gives her. “I am pretty dependent on him. I am not sure if he is dependent on me,” she laughs, “he is very independent.”

Josh, who had previously stood at 6 feet 4 inches tall, had to get used to seeing the world from the vantage point of his wheelchair. Enduring months of physical therapy and learning how to become mobile again, his mind was set on being self-sufficient.

People in wheelchairs are more prone to pressure sores and urinary tract infections. Because paraplegics do not use their legs, they face complications due to bone deterioration.

Josh, however, is very active taking care of his daughter every day and playing wheelchair sports. “Some people just lay around and sit in a chair all day and don't do anything. If you are active and move a lot, you don't have to worry about pressure sores as much,” said Josh.

An Athlete

Josh still excels at sports. He won countless first place medals for track and field competitions, and was named the 2012 West Virginia Challenge Athlete of the Year.

There is always something to worry about, but I dwell on the good stuff."


He lifts 25-pound free weights at sunrise every morning as he trains to compete in the 2016 Rio Paralympic Games. Josh placed at the top of his category for shotput and discus for the 2012 Paralympic trials, ranking him 12th in the world, though his placement was high enough to make it to the 2012 games, he remains determined.

He takes pride in proving that he can “still do the same thing that an able-bodied person can do and throw [shotput] with the best people in the world.”

His oldest sister, Amanda Norman, describes Josh before and after the accident. “He is still just as dedicated. He is still just as driven. He has always wanted to do the best and be the best.”

One of the Gain’s closest friends, Brian Woodyard, 40, of Belpre, Ohio, agrees. “Josh has always been competitive, you can tell he really pushes himself, I just don’t want him to push it too hard where he gives up,” he said.

Woodyard says Josh badly wanted to compete in the Paralympics last year. “His injury was only two years out and what he did is quite amazing. He needs to realize a lot of guys don’t even do that good even five years out [from their accidents].”

A full plate of responsibilities gives Josh a chance to prove his independence every day. “There is always something to worry about, but I dwell on the good stuff,” said Josh.

Raising a child

The “good stuff” includes Josh’s daughter. “I was shocked, just seeing my daughter for the first time. It was the greatest thing of my life to hold her,” he said.

Josh Gains shares a moment with his daughter Jordyn

Josh Gains, 24, shares a moment with his daughter Jordyn Gains, 3, in their home on February 9, 2013. “She is like a blessing. I look forward to taking care of her everyday,” said Josh.

Jordyn, 3, runs from the other room and jumps, finding herself comfortably fitting onto her father’s lap. Josh wheels her to the refrigerator and gets her a snack. And then, just as easily, she jumps to the floor and runs back into her room.

Jordyn only knows her father as being in a chair. She has grown up with him bathing her, dressing her and cooking for her while in his chair. Josh reprimands her like any other father might, and she pouts back like any other daughter would: “Daddy, I said no!”

“Jordyn, come on, let’s put your shoes on.”  Moments later her shoes are on and she’s ready to go out the door.

“Having Jordyn after Josh’s accident was another turning point because I think it gave us something to look forward to,” said Kayla.

“Having Jordyn after Josh’s accident was another turning point because I think it gave us something to look forward to,” said Kayla.

“When she gets older I think she will realize the difference and we will have to sit down and talk about it. But I think since she’s so young and has seen it all of her life, she does not understand there is a difference yet,” said Josh.

Jordyn is observant and inquisitive; she has her parents’ enthusiasm for sports and a strong will. She has her mother’s kind and intense brown eyes and her father’s thoughtful mannerisms. “What is this?” Jordyn frequently asks about all kinds of things, including a wheel to Josh’s basketball chair.

Wheelchair Basketball

Josh is in the driver’s seat on the way to his basketball game two hours away. Every Saturday, the family drives from Vienna, West Virginia, to Charleston.

He plays wheelchair basketball with both the Marietta Wheelers Charity Team and a West Virginia wheelchair basketball traveling team.

Jordyn rolls lightly back and forth in her dad’s everyday wheelchair. She eats a snack and watches from the sidelines as Josh swats a ball, blocking it from his opponent.

In wheelchair basketball, players must dribble once for every two times pushing their wheels forward. “You use all arm strength and you have to have a specific chair, (which) is a big deal because you have the chairs that help you block people. And in able bodied basketball you are just right there on top of each other,” Josh said.

Kayla and Josh give each other a kiss during a wheelchair basketball charity game

Kayla and Josh Gains give each other a kiss during the first half of a Marietta Wheelers, at Parkersburg South High School on Saturday March 23, 2012. Kayla learned how to play basketball in a wheelchair with Josh after his accident. The two both played All-State basketball games when they were in high school. "I like playing wheelchair basketball with Josh because it is something we can do together as a couple," said Kayla.

Wheelchairs made for basketball have wheels that angle out at 45 degrees. They are much wider and there is a fifth wheel so the athlete does not fall backwards out of the chair.

Wheelchair basketball is just down-and-dirty basketball,” said Kayla, who plays as often as she can on the charity team as a fill-in member. Kayla likes to support Josh and enjoys the connection it gives them as a couple.

“I am used to running and everything like that, but the first day I played I was so sore I could not move my arms the next day,” said Kayla. “I told Josh that I can not imagine you doing that every day. I mean, you know, your arms are your lifeline pretty much.”

Josh also sees the sport as an opportunity to spend time together. “It’s fun to play with her and be competitive with her. I also like being able to play on a team like I used to,” said Josh.

Woodyard also plays wheelchair basketball with Josh. “If he was not on our team we probably would not score as many points, it helps that he is really tall,” he said.

“I think he has a positive outlook for others,” he adds.

Planning Ahead

Kayla and Josh were planning to have three or four kids.

“After my accident, one of the first things we talked about was the possibility of having more kids,” said Josh. “We were relieved.  I mean, that we would still be able to be intimate.”

However there are difficulties with having another child because of fertility problems associated with paraplegic males.

“We are just thankful to have Jordyn,” she added.

“We have been to artificial insemination three times and it has not worked so we have to figure out what the next step is,” Kayla explains.

Artificial insemination is a lot of money and it is not covered by insurance. They have to pay everything out of pocket.

“We are just thankful to have Jordyn,” said Kayla.

“I am just really proud of him for not deciding to give up after the accident happened. He was always one of the guys everybody looked up to, and instead of deciding his life was over, he decided to make a new life, a different life for him, Kayla and Jordyn, and I am just proud of him,” said Amanda.

Josh graduates in May 2013. He will have his associates degree in Information Technology and Accounting Technology.

“I am excited to get my degree so I can move on and get where I have a steady job and be able to move up and work somewhere that is more permanent and have a better future,” said Josh.

Kayla is considering returning to school for her master’s degree in education.

The Gains have a lot to hope for. Josh is seeking a job as a financial systems analyst, competing in the Paralympics seems to be a persisting goal, and perhaps someday Jordyn will have a little sister or brother.

Kayla talks about how their struggles have brought her and Josh strength. “In a way I am kind of glad [the accident] happened. We really had to learn to depend on each other through all this,” she said. “I think we ended up on top.”

In a way I am kind of glad [the accident] happened, we really had to learn to depend on each other through all this."