Summer 2013

Disaster Medicine

When word reached Tufts Medical Center that there had been explosions near the finish line of the Boston Marathon on April 15, the staff in the emergency room at first thought it might just be another in a long line of drills. But it was not. In a fury of activity over the next hours, the ER ended up treating a dozen runners who had been injured in the twin blasts less than a mile away.

Tufts Medical Center was one of several Boston hospitals that admitted injured runners and spectators that day. Three people died at the scene of the attack, and more than 260 were injured. Some lost limbs. Amputations in the first hours were commonplace. Patients, who ranged in age from 7 to 71, arrived with shrapnel wounds and extensive burns.

Those who were transported to Tufts had severe, but not life-threatening injuries. Long-term physical therapy and counseling for PTSD were likely, experts say, for large numbers of those injured in the blasts.

On an April day meant for celebration, Boston hospitals rose to the occasion and shone. Not a single patient who reached their emergency rooms died. “Our training, our practicing, went a long way,” said William Mackey, chief of surgery at Tufts Medical Center.

In late April, The Lancet cited Tufts Medical Center by name and commended the city’s collective medical response to the tragedy in an editorial, calling it “rapid, exceedingly well-coordinated and inspiring.”

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