Monday, April 15th, the Patriots Day holiday in Boston, dawned clear and cool, a perfect spring day. The ER at the Boston Medical Center (BMC) hummed with activity – headaches, and chest pain and the wounds and complaints of everyday life. With Boston’s marathon winding down, ER staff were ready for runners with dehydration and sprains, and the rare cardiac arrest. An average day if ever there was one.
But with the vicious and sudden bombing at the marathon’s finish line, all of that changed. In the blink of an eye, chaos and catastrophe were the order of the day. And in each of Boston’s ER’s, long practiced disaster plans were quickly put into place. At BMC, the staff swung into action, pulling in staff from other areas and equipment from every nook and cranny. Nurses and doctors converged on the ER as patients arrived, their eyes filled with the terror and uncertainty that only victims of true evil can know.
Just beyond the ER as ambulances rolled in, police stood armed and ready as film crews set up, and people wanting to help gathered. To the casual observer, it was a scene of unrelenting madness. And inside the ER, as each new patient was assigned to a staff member, the chaos and uncertainty were palpable.
How many more are coming? Who has the blood? Is the OR ready? I need another line!
But in the center of that seeming cauldron of chaos, tiny lights of hope and kindness bloomed and spread.
What’s your name? I’m your nurse. It’s okay. Hold my hand.
And as the hours wore on, and the overwhelming scope of the tragedy became clear, the staff’s special expertise shone. And though surely spent, they never gave up.
What do you need? What can I do? Let me help.
It is often said that the best of people emerges in the worst of times, and this was never more evident than yesterday inside the ER of the Boston Medical Center. And as patients were saved and soothed and comforted, and tiny rays of hope and light broke through the darkness, I was reminded once again how great this city, this hospital, this country is, and how proud I am to be a small part of all of that.
Originally published in the Huffington Post