From the President: Responding to the Boston Marathon Bombing

The survival and recovery of so many Boston Marathon bombing victims is a tribute to the tremendous work of Mass General and other Boston hospitals.
Peter Slavin, MD
Peter L. Slavin, MD, president, Massachusetts General Hospital

Eight months have passed since April 15, 2013, when two bombs exploded near the finish line of the Boston Marathon. While the 39 marathon bombing victims treated at Massachusetts General Hospital, nine of whom were in critical condition, are now at home recovering after days and weeks here and in rehabilitation, their recovery – both physical and mental – may take years.

All of us were affected by the tragic events on what should have been a celebratory occasion. We still grieve for the Boston Marathon bombing victims and their families. I also believe that we have lost a certain degree of innocence. Many of us now stay away from crowded events. A loud noise may startle us more than before. Even those of us who were not physically injured will need time to recover.

Yet, despite the tragic and needless violence, it is a tribute to the tremendous work of the great hospitals in Boston and to their skilled medical staffs that all 250 victims who showed up at hospitals alive that day survived.

A Staff Well-trained for Emergency Response

A number of factors helped to make this happen. Medical staff were at the finish line and available to provide immediate aid to the most seriously hurt as a result of the Boston marathon bombing. We benefited from the city’s Emergency Medical Services effectively diverting patients to several area hospitals, so no single institution was overwhelmed. The bombings occurred 10 minutes before shift changes at emergency and operating rooms, so hospitals were double staffed, thereby having extra hands available to care for the arrival of so many injured people.

Mass General staff is well-trained for this type of situation. Within 10 minutes of the call from the Boston emergency authorities, our disaster response system was activated and the Emergency Department mobilized to treat the first patient.

All aspects of the hospital were affected by this event. In this issue of Mass General Magazine, we take a look at the broader context of MGH’s response to the Boston Marathon bombing tragedy. We examine the emergency and trauma components, but also focus on other systems that kicked into gear to make effective medical response possible.

This issue provides a story of hope about a survivor of another area tragedy, the Station nightclub fire. Joe Kinan, a survivor of this travesty, became Mass General’s first hand transplant patient. You will read about Joe’s personal story and about the development of transplant care at MGH.

Gratitude for Your Assistance

We also will explore Mass General’s global efforts to improve the health of women and newborns in Africa and around the world.

Our global health relief efforts are now taking place in the Philippines, where a devastating typhoon killed thousands and left many more injured and homeless. Mass General staff members have stepped forward to help the victims, traveling to the hardest hit areas to provide medical services. Again the culture of caring that is MGH’s trademark is evident.

Let me close by thanking you, our friends and supporters, who offered us assistance following the April 15 tragedy and financial assistance for our relief efforts in the Philippines. And, on behalf of all of us at MGH, please accept my deepest gratitude for your ongoing support of Mass General and your relentless belief in our mission.