BOSTON (CBS) – After the two explosions on Boylston Street on Marathon Monday, 31 patients were rushed to Mass General Hospital in Boston. Emergency Services Administrator Supervisor Keith Kwiatkowski witnessed the first rush of patients, and the incredible medical work going on around him.
“These people here are not normal,” he says of his MGH colleagues, “they’re superhuman.”
The injured came in with what looked like battlefield injuries.
“It felt like people rolling in out of a combat zone,” Keith adds.
The first radios went off in the ER at 2:55, and by 3:00 the first patients were being brought in.
Keith has no doubt the work in the ER in those crucial minutes saved lives. “In my humble opinion, there are people alive today who would not be alive had it not been for the people here and other trauma centers, the praise people heap on Boston? It’s deserved.”
People like Trauma Surgeon Dr. Dante Yeh who treated the first critically injured patients in to the ER.
“I could hear them calling in to the ER,” Dr. Yeh remembers, “we need a surgeon down here to evaluate a critical patient – anyone who can come down and take a look!”
Dr. Yeh says this is the kind of emergency Mass. General prepares for. “As a Level 1 Trauma Center we have to be prepared for mass casualty incidents,” he says.
Timing was also on their side – the 3:00 shift change meant twice as many staff members were in the ER than if the explosions had happened in the middle of the night or early morning. And the victims were fortunate to be in downtown Boston.
“The outpouring of volunteerism and support from our residents, our nurses – everybody in the hospital – was amazing.”
An added layer of concern was the investigation.
“Typically one of the aspects of nursing care is to clean the patient up to remove dirt and debris because any piece of biologic evidence could be an important clue.”
Keith says despite the drills and practice, he was still amazed by the skill he saw on display. “On Monday I was floored at how fast and how good and how skilled these people are.”
He calls it a privilege to be witness to such heroism. It left him feeling more optimistic than pessimistic about the entire incident.
“I’m really proud to be part of this emergency department team, the whole team…Mass General…the City of Boston…it was amazing…”
Of the 31 patients taken to MGH, six remain: two in good condition, three in fair, and one still in serious condition.