Life after the Boston Marathon Bombing - Coping with the Trauma

by tnbutterfly 10,168 Views | 22 Comments Admin

April the 15th has always been known as Tax Day for Americans. This year the 15th occurred on the third Monday of April, the date of one of America’s great traditional events, the Boston Marathon. But now, that date will always remind us of the horrific events that transpired that sunny afternoon in Boston. Images of that day will be forever etched into the minds of not only doctors, nurses, first responders and participants but also the entire nation. Think about the doctors and nurses who were working in the Boston ER’s that day. How did they feel when they were inundated with victims who were clinging to life? How are they coping today? How would you react in that situation?

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    Life after the Boston Marathon Bombing - Coping with the Trauma

    As thousands gathered on Monday, April 15, “Patriots Day” to participate in or cheer on runners in one of America’s well-known events, the Boston Marathon, little did anyone know that the sunny day would soon be darkened by senseless acts of terrorism. While thousands were focused on crossing the finish line and completing the race, two brothers had another goal in mind.

    The horrific drama that gripped Boston, the surrounding area, and the world for more than 5 days, began when two homemade bombs exploded 12 seconds apart near the finish line. Three young people were killed, and more than 170 injured as shrapnel blasted through the viewing area.

    While hundreds of volunteers and first responders attended to the emergent physical needs of hundreds, shock filled the people in the immediate area as well as hundreds of thousands of television viewers who were watching a scene unfold that brought to mind the overwhelming terror of September 11th.

    This event was followed immediately by a massive manhunt after two brothers had been identified as the perpetrators. The following days were filled with great anxiety, particularly for those in the Boston area as the brothers seemed to vanish into thin air. Businesses, schools, and mass transportation were shut down as massive lockdowns were mandated. Two others lost their lives in the ensuing pursuit and subsequent gun fights, including one of the suspects and a university policeman.

    Finally, the second suspect was captured on Friday night and taken into custody. He was rushed to a nearby hospital, where he remains in serious condition as the result of wounds he received, presumably from gunshots.

    Now that the suspects have been either shot or captured, we can all begin to breathe again. But how long will it be before we feel safe again........if ever???

    After an event of this magnitude, all of those involved have to deal with the feelings that have accumulated over the past several days...... All of the workers……..at the race, in the hospitals……..all of the first responders that dealt with the carnage. What about those doctors and nurses who were working in the Boston ER’s that day? Think of how they felt when they were inundated with victims who were clinging to life. You know that they will never get those images out of their minds.

    Let’s not forget about nurses who will be working with this suspect and seeing to his needs. The irony.... The same doctors and nurses who worked frantically to save the lives of the victims will now be focused on saving the attacker. They will provide him with the best of care. Although they will remain professional, they will have to deal with their own personal feelings about someone who caused injury to so many.

    The journey of the investigation into this horrendous event is just beginning. While there is a great deal of relief with the capture of the surviving suspect, many unanswered questions remain.

    Terrorism is a powerful thing which violates our physical and mental beings. Recovery and healing are in the beginning stages for the families of those who died, for the injured and their families, and others touched by this tragedy. The needs of the bomb victims and their loved ones go well beyond dealing with the physical wounds. Many face months and possibly years of recovery from those wounds. But this trauma can also elicit a range of emotions as well as post-traumatic stress syndrome.

    Medical staff and first responders will need debriefing as well. They are coping with the emotional impact of dealing with the extensive and life-threatening wounds of the victims. Nurses are trying to manage the continuing care of the victims while managing their own feeling of grief, anger, and shock. It is important for them to be able to talk about their feelings in the midst of this ongoing crisis.

    Many resources have been made available for the victims to help deal with the emotional trauma of the bombing. Nurses need to take advantage of the resources as they too are victims. In order to take care of others, nurses and doctors need to take care of themselves.

    Feel free to post how this event has impacted you. I would especially love to hear from any nurses who were on duty that day or who have assisted in any way. You are in my thoughts and prayers as you deal with this.

    For resources to help victims deal with the emotional trauma, please read
    Stopping the Emotional Bleeding Following a Disaster
    Last edit by tnbutterfly on Apr 24, '13
    gypsynurse, JacobJason, P_RN, and 10 others like this.
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  3. About tnbutterfly

    tnbutterfly has been in nursing for more than 30 years, with experience in med-surg, pediatrics, psychiatrics, and disaster nursing. She is currently a parish nurse.....a position which she has had for the past 15 years.

    tnbutterfly joined Jun '06 - from 'TN'. tnbutterfly has 'More than 35 years' year(s) of experience and specializes in 'Parish Nsg, Disaster Nsg, Peds, Med-Surg'. Posts: 21,900 Likes: 11,893; Learn more about tnbutterfly by visiting their allnursesPage

    22 Comments so far...

  4. 5
    They are still in the throes of this nightmare......Kudos to the dedicated nurses!
    Guppy, anotherone, VivaLasViejas, and 2 others like this.
  5. 14
    Twenty minutes is what stood between me and the bombers. Marathon Monday has been my favorite day of the year since I was in high school. Back then, I watched it from the start. I attended college right along the route and it was by far the greatest day of the year. Following college, I lived down the street for 4 years and watched it from my home. Two years ago I moved to a different part of the city.

    This year, I decided to meet friends at the finish line. They had both volunteered with the wheelchair division and when they were done, wanted to watch the remainder of the race and cheer for friends who they knew were running. Had my friend not been complaining about how hungry she was, I would undoubtedly have still been there when the bombs went off. It would have never been my idea to leave at 2:30PM when the bulk of runners were going by. My friend told me today that her husband actually forgot about one additional friend who was running who he meant to look for... if he had remembered he was looking for her, we would have still been there. We were sitting eating lunch when the bombs exploded. Two police officers on their lunch break went flying from the back of the restaurant and sirens followed. Minutes later, the news reported explosions. Minutes after that, the restaurant was full of people pouring in from the streets. The cops were busy dealing with the situation so none of us knew what we should do- do we stay where we are or do we try to get out asap? My car was parked at a T station between miles 22-23. The T shut down immediately. The city shut down all cell phone service out of concern that there may be other bombs that could be detonated with a cell phone. I was getting countless texts from people asking if I was ok but I couldn't send any responses. After navigating several street closings and finally making it back to my car on foot, I was able to drive home. Looking at the news I realized that the second bomb actually exploded in the exact intersection I had been standing in.

    On Thursday night, I went to bed just before they broke the news of what was going on. I had horrible dreams and tossed and turned all night, just as I have every night since Monday. I woke to a phone call at 6:30 am on Friday morning from my per diem job saying that they were closing at the request of emergency personnel. I thought "oh crap" and went downstairs and turned on the news. As I was about to leave my house, the Governor announced that all of Boston had to shelter in place. I am a visiting nurse in the city of Boston and immediate surrounding suburbs. I have patients in ALL of the communities that were locked down Friday. Friday felt like it lasted for about a week. I watched the news conference at 6PM in which they lifted the lockdown and still knew it wasn't safe to go out. Less than an hour later, the national news cut back to the local news as they reported on more gunfire from Watertown- the most exciting thing about this town on your average day is that it has a Target. Relief at 8:45PM when they said they had him. Yesterday morning, while watching the news, I discovered an association that I had with the man whose boat the suspect was hiding in.

    This has been a horrible week but it feels like it's been WAY more than seven days since this happened. I was talking to my friend (the friend who I was at the Marathon with) earlier today at lunch and relaying a story about something I had done last weekend. As I was telling it, I couldn't remember when it happened because this week has been so long that last weekend seemed like it was several months ago.
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    One day someone somewhere will come up with a word that will be able to properly encompass the magnitude of grief, fear, and outrage that comes with acts of terror.

    Even so, proper word or not, if there is anything I can say about our country, particularly our stouthearted friends of the Eastern seaboard, is though this has once again tested their mettle, forcing them to bend, they are far from broken.

    To my fellow providers, we are proud of you. To my fellow therapy dog teams providing comfort and a moment's respite to all, but especially impacted children, I salute you. To the survivors, because that is what you are....survivors, not victims, I wish you gentle time to heal your wounds. To those lost, you will forever be in the hearts of those who loved you.

    Nicely written article, Madam Butterfly.
    nuangel1, anotherone, BCgradnurse, and 4 others like this.
  7. 12
    I am a Primary Care RN and was volunteering in the main Medical Tent this year. This was my second year and it was a perfect day weather wise. We had been busy but certainly not as bad as last year. We were treating mostly muscle cramps and mild dehydration.
    All of a sudden we heard a loud bang that shook the tent. The tent announcer told us to remain calm and keep treating our patients. Then the second explosion went over. Before they could tell us what was going on the TV started showing what was going on. I think at first the whole group that was working on our team were in shock. When the first victims started being rushed in and straight to the ambulances by thought was I am going to die today. Then I was able to re-focus and everyone just started jumping in taking care of what came through the front of the tent. At that point Boston EMS was in full disaster mode. We went from a triage/treatment area to a full blown Trauma treatment tent
    I didn't have to to think about what had happened until I went home and watched it on TV and then I just said everyone of the Marathon Volunteers had angels watching over them.
    It has been tough since then but I am beginning to heal. The arrest has brought some closure and then today I visited the memorial site which is right down the street from where this happened. It will take time to heal but I have already committed to returning next year as a volunteer
  8. 2
    Quote from KelRN215
    Twenty minutes is what stood between me and the bombers. Marathon Monday has been my favorite day of the year since I was in high school. Back then, I watched it from the start. I attended college right along the route and it was by far the greatest day of the year. Following college, I lived down the street for 4 years and watched it from my home. Two years ago I moved to a different part of the city.

    This year, I decided to meet friends at the finish line. They had both volunteered with the wheelchair division and when they were done, wanted to watch the remainder of the race and cheer for friends who they knew were running. Had my friend not been complaining about how hungry she was, I would undoubtedly have still been there when the bombs went off. It would have never been my idea to leave at 2:30PM when the bulk of runners were going by. My friend told me today that her husband actually forgot about one additional friend who was running who he meant to look for... if he had remembered he was looking for her, we would have still been there. We were sitting eating lunch when the bombs exploded. Two police officers on their lunch break went flying from the back of the restaurant and sirens followed. Minutes later, the news reported explosions. Minutes after that, the restaurant was full of people pouring in from the streets. The cops were busy dealing with the situation so none of us knew what we should do- do we stay where we are or do we try to get out asap? My car was parked at a T station between miles 22-23. The T shut down immediately. The city shut down all cell phone service out of concern that there may be other bombs that could be detonated with a cell phone. I was getting countless texts from people asking if I was ok but I couldn't send any responses. After navigating several street closings and finally making it back to my car on foot, I was able to drive home. Looking at the news I realized that the second bomb actually exploded in the exact intersection I had been standing in.

    On Thursday night, I went to bed just before they broke the news of what was going on. I had horrible dreams and tossed and turned all night, just as I have every night since Monday. I woke to a phone call at 6:30 am on Friday morning from my per diem job saying that they were closing at the request of emergency personnel. I thought "oh crap" and went downstairs and turned on the news. As I was about to leave my house, the Governor announced that all of Boston had to shelter in place. I am a visiting nurse in the city of Boston and immediate surrounding suburbs. I have patients in ALL of the communities that were locked down Friday. Friday felt like it lasted for about a week. I watched the news conference at 6PM in which they lifted the lockdown and still knew it wasn't safe to go out. Less than an hour later, the national news cut back to the local news as they reported on more gunfire from Watertown- the most exciting thing about this town on your average day is that it has a Target. Relief at 8:45PM when they said they had him. Yesterday morning, while watching the news, I discovered an association that I had with the man whose boat the suspect was hiding in.

    This has been a horrible week but it feels like it's been WAY more than seven days since this happened. I was talking to my friend (the friend who I was at the Marathon with) earlier today at lunch and relaying a story about something I had done last weekend. As I was telling it, I couldn't remember when it happened because this week has been so long that last weekend seemed like it was several months ago.
    Oh my!!! Thanks for posting about your very close call, KelRN215. I'm glad you and your friends are safe. I can only imagine what you are going through now. I hope you have someone you can talk to about this.
    BCgradnurse and Esme12 like this.
  9. 2
    Quote from BillDockham
    I am a Primary Care RN and was volunteering in the main Medical Tent this year. This was my second year and it was a perfect day weather wise. We had been busy but certainly not as bad as last year. We were treating mostly muscle cramps and mild dehydration.
    All of a sudden we heard a loud bang that shook the tent. The tent announcer told us to remain calm and keep treating our patients. Then the second explosion went over. Before they could tell us what was going on the TV started showing what was going on. I think at first the whole group that was working on our team were in shock. When the first victims started being rushed in and straight to the ambulances by thought was I am going to die today. Then I was able to re-focus and everyone just started jumping in taking care of what came through the front of the tent. At that point Boston EMS was in full disaster mode. We went from a triage/treatment area to a full blown Trauma treatment tent
    I didn't have to to think about what had happened until I went home and watched it on TV and then I just said everyone of the Marathon Volunteers had angels watching over them.
    It has been tough since then but I am beginning to heal. The arrest has brought some closure and then today I visited the memorial site which is right down the street from where this happened. It will take time to heal but I have already committed to returning next year as a volunteer
    Bless you for your efforts to tend to the needs of others in this horrible event. I am so glad you are safe. Please be sure to tend to your own needs. Feel free to come here any time to talk.
    anotherone and Esme12 like this.
  10. 12
    My floor has quite a few victims and I have taken care of one of them for my last few shifts. It's been hard but an honor to be able to care for her. She is so strong despite everything she has been through and will continue to go through. She, and all the victims are an inspiration and a reminder of why I went into nursing.
    Guppy, NutmeggeRN, WifeMotherRN, and 9 others like this.
  11. 2
    PediLove.......thanks for sharing.

    I especially like this part of your post:

    She, and all the victims are an inspiration and a reminder of why I went into nursing.
    Yes......we need to remember this. Thanks for what you are doing.
    BCgradnurse and Esme12 like this.
  12. 4
    I have worked the Marathon a few times myself......To my Boston friends!!! My heart is with you! You do us proud!

    This is a great article !!!!!!!!!!! It echos my friends thoughts who were working

    Boston nurses tell of bloody marathon aftermath
    Puppylv, brian, JeannetteUbaldino, and 1 other like this.


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