I was waiting for my 3:30 “Chief Complaint: Rash” to show up when a co-resident’s sister texted her about “an explosion” at the marathon finish line. Almost immediately (as we were skeptically searching Google News and Twitter’s #BostonMarathon hashtag for verification), the hospital over-headed the verification we were looking for: “ALL AVAILABLE ANESTHESIOLOGISTS PLEASE REPORT TO THE OR IMMEDIATELY. ALL AVAILABLE ANESTHESIOLOGISTS PLEASE REPORT TO THE OR IMMEDIATELY.” Within seconds, sirens blared and we saw ambulances rushing out of our emergency department.
It was real.
It took us a minute to gather our thoughts before we rushed down to the ED in case backup was needed. On our trek across the hospital, we ran into numerous other physicians, nurses, and other medical personnel, many of them also in a hurry to get to the emergency room. Police officers gathered at every hospital entrance and placed us on lock-down.
In the ED, the adrenaline was palpable. The non-marathon-associated patients were being mobilized in an expedited manner in preparation for the unpredictable. The trauma teams were there. The beds were clean and ready. And I was surrounded by a variety of colleagues all gathered without having been called, all with the same intention and for the same purpose: to help. There were medical students who had come in on their afternoon off in case the hospital needed extra manpower. A co-resident had run back to the hospital after an exhausting 24-hour shift in the pediatric intensive care unit “just in case.” A pastor was pacing the emergency waiting area, ready to support grieving families.
Fortunately, our hospital did not receive any children with life-threatening injuries. While the same cannot be said of our adult side, one thing is true: there were more personnel immediately available to help than there were wounded. And most personnel stayed at the hospital past the end of our shifts in case we were needed.
Bostonians across the city were busy doing the same. We’ve all heard the stories already… the marathoners that kept running to the nearest hospital to donate blood; the firefighters and cops carrying mangled bodies to safety; the spectators running towards the bomb to help the injured; people opening their homes to perfect strangers from around the world after all the area hotels had closed down.
I can only account for my experience from my own hospital, but I am confident that my experience was a universal one. That out of a horrific day where innocent people lost limbs, and families lost loved ones, we found ourselves united to a common end. Because for every act of evil, there are one-thousand acts of kindness. And because tragedies like yesterday’s do less to highlight what is wrong with the world, and more to reveal what is right about humanity.