London, UK (BBN)-It was a rather unusual date for a pair of love-struck teenagers.
Sitting on hospital beds under the watchful eyes of their parents, Leah Washington and Joe Pugh were enjoying a rare treat – a Chinese takeaway – and boxes of hot food littered the floor of the ward, reports the Daily Mail.
The sweet-and-sour chicken, chicken-fried rice and chips tasted delicious after weeks of bland hospital food.
But even more precious was the fact that this was a snatched moment of normality for the couple as they made their slow and painful recovery from devastating, life-changing injuries sustained in the Alton Towers rollercoaster crash.
For this young couple everything changed during a trip to the Staffordshire theme park in June when the Smiler ride they were on crashed into a stationary carriage on the same track.
Leah, then 17, nearly died twice in the wreckage and ended up having her left leg amputated above the knee; Joe, then 18, had both knees smashed so badly he has had to learn to walk again.
Last week, Leah told The Mail on Sunday how the tragedy had shattered their lives.
But while many relationships would not have survived such a terrible event, the teenagers have described in their first emotional interview together how it has brought them closer.
Speaking from his family home in Barnsley, South Yorkshire, with Leah by his side, Joe explains how the pair now have an indelible bond.
Squeezing Leah’s hand, he says: ‘No one else really understands what we’ve been through. We talk to each other about what happened – it helps. It’s brought us closer together, there’s no doubt about that. We both support each other because it’s hard for both of us not being independent any more.
‘Even simple things like just going out for a meal together to a pub, we need the help of our parents or friends. Even though it’s not a big thing to most people, it is when you’re like us.’
Joe’s words show a maturity beyond his 19 years. But then, both of them had to grow up fast over the past few months. Their relationship now is punctuated by exhausting physiotherapy sessions which often keep them apart, and a regimen of painkillers to numb the agony of their injuries.