Lessons in Disaster: The Boston Marathon Bombing

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By Kelly Bergeron, MHA, BSRT(R)(MR), CRA

April 15, 2013 is a day most everyone in Boston will never forget; it was a day both of joy and of horror. Those who work in healthcare, at the hospitals in the city, were tested to the limits of their skills and emotional endurance, trying to give aid to those most in need. For those at Boston Medical Center (BMC), a Level 1 Trauma Center, this day was both a test of capabilities as a team as well as a test of inner strength. Each and every person needed both that day.

Every year, the major hospitals in the city send teams of physicians, usually residents, to man medical tents at the Boston Marathon finish line. Those staffing the tents expect blisters, exhaustion, dehydration, etc. They did not expect to go running into what can only be described as a war zone to rescue and treat hundreds of injured people, many so severely injured that time was of the essence to get them to a hospital. According to the manager of disaster preparedness, the events of April 15th were unlike any that those in Boston have experienced before. The first victims began arriving a mere eight minutes following the first blast. According to Boston EMS, the last victim transported arrived at a hospital only 28 minutes following the blast. This was unprecedented in its efficiency and is wholly due to the medical plan in place each year for the marathon.

The first BMC patient rolled into the emergency department (ED), both legs missing, before anyone even knew what had happened, followed almost immediately by a woman who had lost her foot. Word was received minutes later there had been a bombing, but by then the ED was starting to fill up with severely wounded people. If there had to be a silver lining, it was shift change, and so there was double staffing in all areas. Everyone got to work.

To read the full version of this article, with much more, including the lessons learned from the experience; please click here for an open-access version of the article as it was originally printed in the March/April 2014 issue of Radiology Management.

Kelly Bergeron, MHA, BSRT(R)(MR) is manager or MRI Services at Boston Medical Center in Boston, MA. She can be contacted at Kelly.Bergeron@bmc.org. 

Special thanks to Maureen McMahon, Malissa Danforth, Christine Seay, and Carol Morrissey-Downing for their contributions.

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