A Day in the Life: A Boston Doctor on April 15, 2013

Dr. Sam Lin chronicled exactly what his day was like on Marathon Monday.

Photo by Regina Mogilevskaya

Photo by Regina Mogilevskaya

The doctors, nurses, and other hospital staff in the greater Boston area have worked tirelessly to provide the best medical care possible to the victims of the Boston Marathon bombings. Dr. Sam Lin is a plastic surgeon at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and an assistant professor of surgery at Harvard Medical School. He documented his actions to tell us what it was like working in a hospital that day, from his perspective. This is his story:

8 a.m.: It’s my day off. I go to the gym for a quick run. Since it’s Patriot’s Day, I snag a parking spot right in front of the entrance.

10 a.m.: Office work at home.

12 p.m.: Working outside on the lawn with grass-seed and fertilizer; common wisdom is fertilizing early in the spring, and somehow I’m organized enough this year to put the fertilizer down. We’ll see what happens!

2:50 p.m.: I am outside the house catching up with neighbors and enjoying the long weekend with them.

3:05 p.m.: One of the neighbors informs me about the explosions near the finish line of the Boston Marathon. “Another public display of terror,” I think to myself, though I didn’t accept it enough to check my phone for more information.

3:37 p.m.: The first call comes in from the hospital. One of our plastic surgery residents calls to let me know that multiple individuals with lower extremity traumas are arriving at the hospital. I also hear that multiple nursing, anesthesia, and physician staff are also being called into the hospital.

3:51 p.m.: One of my plastic surgery colleagues texts me to touch base about ongoing events. At this point, it’s all hands on deck related to what surgical services are needed, what types of casualties have occurred, and the staffing needed.

4 p.m.: I gather my things together to head into the hospital to help wherever needed.

4:34 p.m.: I am still in traffic and have witnessed two minor traffic accidents on the way into the hospital.

4:45 p.m.: I finally enter the hospital after my ID badge is confirmed and my bag searched. Security is extremely tight at all hospital entrances. I have never seen the entrance of the hospital quite like this before.

5 p.m.: After checking in at the desk, I head to the operating room control area, where multiple physicians from different surgical services are arriving to coordinate care. There is a master list of available physicians being compiled in order to help with triage and treatment of patients.

5:10 p.m.: I meet up with other plastic surgery colleagues and begin to learn about the extent of injuries. We are all recounting which friends and colleagues were at the finish line and which were actually were running the race.

7 p.m.: There are seven or eight operating rooms ongoing with injuries from the bombings. It’s incredible to see all of our colleagues working together as efficiently as possible, yet in the back of my head, I knew that there could be many more victims still to come.

7:15 p.m.: I help evaluate and treat primarily upper and lower extremity injuries in the patients. All the shrapnel, metal, and foreign material is kept to be sent to the FBI for investigation. That’s the first time I’ve ever had to do that. Indeed, the crime scene has extended to hospitals’ operating rooms around the city.

9 p.m.: I return to my office to catch up and respond to multiple emails, texts, and calls of worry from my friends and relatives outside of the Boston area and then head home.

10:30 p.m.: Now at home, I’m glued to the television screen. I am watching the events being replayed continuously, and try to sleep while knowing patients in the hospital may need treatment for weeks and months to come.

Many patients who are survivors of the tragedy will face a long recovery ahead. To see all of my colleagues come together for a single purpose was both inspirational and a somber reminder of our hard-wired sense of “doing our job” despite the day’s inexplicable events. However, it is hard not to give pause about our friends, family, and colleagues who were personally affected that afternoon.