Six Heroic Saves

For the victims of the marathon bombings, the process of healing isn’t merely physical—it’s emotional, too. And the bonds they forged with the doctors who treated them that fateful day have helped restore both mind and body.


Photograph by Henry Busby

The Doctor:

Frank Vittimberga

Chief of vascular surgery, Mount Auburn Hospital

The Patient:

Richard “Dic” Donohue

MBTA officer, Woburn

Frank Vittimberga was sleeping when his phone rang just after midnight on April 19. His wife, who’d stayed up watching the news, already knew about the shootout in Watertown. “I said, ‘I have to run into the hospital, someone’s been shot,’ and she said, ‘I don’t know if you should go, they’re throwing bombs,’” he recalls. “I said, ‘I’m used to bombs.’”

Vittimberga, the chief of vascular surgery at Mount Auburn, learned his trade treating soldiers during the Vietnam War. When he reached the hospital, he learned that Donohue had been shot in the groin and was losing blood fast. “There was blood everywhere,” he says. “This bullet had gone into his groin very high up, making a small hole on the outside and a large hole on the inside.”

The operation took six hours, Vittimberga says, and “his leg was perfect by the time we were through.”

Donohue remembers nothing about that night, but when he woke up several days later, he was overwhelmed, both by the sea of visitors (including an entire SWAT team in full gear, several Red Sox players, and Kevin Spacey) and by the patience of the entire hospital staff. “They put up with the line of police officers all day and night,” he says—not to mention his constant requests for Big Macs (no dice).