Boston, MA – The Boston Marathon explosions have left area hospitals scrambling to care for the wounded. With the death toll at three and the wounded at 144 or more, hospitals like Boston Children’s and Massachusetts General are struggling in more ways than one.
The trouble began when two bombs ripped through the crowd on Monday afternoon as runners were completing the annual marathon. The explosions turned the happy occasion into a scene resembling a war-torn battlefield.
At Boston Children’s Hospital, the list of patients is disheartening. The wounded there included a two-year-old boy with a head injury, a nine-year-old girl with leg trauma, and six other children under the age of 15.
For Massachusetts General, which has not provided a total number of patients, trauma surgeons reported performing several amputations by mid-evening. One trauma surgeon at Mass. General, Peter Fagenholz, operated on six patients throughout the afternoon and evening.
Fagenholz added that the most serious cases were not children. They arrived at the hospital within 15 minutes of the explosions near the Boston Marathon’s finish line. He added that many of the patients will have a long road to recovery ahead of them. Fagenholz explained:
“A number of patients will require repeat operation tomorrow and serial operations over the next couple of days. People, they are pretty brave, you know. It’s a terrible thing and most patients attitude is, do what you need to do and try to make me better.”
Dr. Ron Walls, chairman of the Department of Emergency Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, where several other bombing victims were taken, added that the explosions are also taking a toll on emergency workers. Walls explained, “For many, many people in emergency medicine who are practicing domestically and not in the military, these are once-in-a-lifetime events.”
The injuries seen on Monday were not necessarily extraordinary, as trauma surgeons and nurses routinely operate on victims of car accidents. However, the volume of wounded was unprecedented. By Monday evening, eight Boston-area hospitals reported treating 144 patients, many of whom were listed in critical condition.
Many of the hospitals where victims of the Boston Marathon explosions were taken had to activate long-held emergency plans. Those plans included calling in emergency staff and at times placing their facilities on a temporary lock down by not allowing any visitors and searching everyone who did enter.
Along with hospitals, the Boston Marathon’s medical tent also saw some of the first victims of the deadly explosions. Dr. Sushrut Jangi, an internist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, volunteered in the tent on Monday. He expected to see the usual running injuries, like dehydration and hypothermia. Instead, Jangi was shaken by what he saw. He recalled:
“There were victims coming in with both legs blown off. I had never seen anything like that … Obviously we were not anticipating a scene of trauma. I just held hands and talked to patients to try to bring down their anxieties. The patients who were severely injured didn’t stay in the tent too long; the priority was to stabilize them and get them to hospitals.”
More than 100 staff members at Beth Israel Deaconess descended on emergency rooms to care for the wounded. After hours of operations to stabilize wounds and perform emergency amputations, many staff members could no longer contain their emotions. Most of the patients were transferred from the emergency room and into other areas of the hospital by 6:30 pm local time. After that, several staff members could be seen weeping openly.
While more than 144 victims of the Boston Marathon explosions continue to fight for their lives in area hospitals, emergency workers and hospital staff will likely get little sleep as they work through the night to help as much as they can.