Massachusetts General Hospital

Harry E. Rubash, MD

Harry E. Rubash, M.D.

Edith M. Ashley Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery
Harvard Medical School

2012-13 Chief's Report | MGH Chief's Report 2012-2013 PDF

How Things Have Changed...


It was Patriot’s Day in Massachusetts.  I had just arrived in my hotel room in Seoul, South Korea when a text message appeared on my phone instructing me to call the MGH Emergency Response System.  In the past I have received these messages for tests of the system, however I was startled when less than 30 seconds later a second text came through asking that I call in to the MGH Emergency Command Center.  I dialed the phone number and entered my code as directed. The first part of the message stated that “bombs had been detonated in Boston and casualties were expected.”  I was not surprised and assumed that as in the past, this was a drill.  What shocked me, however, was the second part of the message stating, “This was not a test.”  I turned on the TV to CNN and saw footage of the first and second bombs that had detonated near the Boston Marathon finish line.


I immediately texted Dr. Malcolm Smith, Chief of the MGH Trauma Service, and Dr. Andrew Freiberg, Vice Chair, who was covering for me during my trip to Samsung and Seoul National University Hospital.  The response from these individuals was amazing.  Dr. Smith indicated that five operating rooms were ready to go and that the first casualties had already arrived.  All staff and emergency responders were ready - attendings, residents, nursing staff, support staff, blood bank staff, and Trauma teams.    My second text to Dr. Freiberg was answered by, “I am on my way to the Command Center.  Will keep you updated.”  For the next several hours, I sat glued to the television screen as I watched the world-changing series of events unfold.


Two brothers had detonated these bombs during the final hours of the Boston Marathon that were originally intended for the July 4th celebration on the Esplanade.  The response of the people, medical teams, government officials, FBI, CIA, and law enforcement officials from around the nation was remarkable.  They reacted in a measured and highly effective way.  By 8:00 pm, the Trauma team was asked to stand down as the wave of patients ceased.


MGH ED Response/Data

  1. 14:55   Cmed reports bomb
  2. 15:03   Trauma stat page…Trauma teams assemble
  3. 15:06   Disaster code declared…Hospital-wide teams called
  4. 15:12-15:59   Operating Rooms occupied...25 acute patients through the ED in an hour      
  5. 17:05   Trauma team stand down
  6. 17:51   Disaster secured (ED)

Boston Bombing 2013, MGH ORThe important phase of secondary treatment and healing began.  As the hunt for the perpetrators continued and information began to flow, subsequent events became even more astounding.  Final shots were fired approximately two and a half days later in Watertown, where one of the suspects was fatally injured and the other taken into custody.  I will never forget the faces and resolve of the people rushing into the carnage on that day, extracting seriously injured individuals to get them to the ambulances for transportation to various hospitals around the city. 


I want to thank Dr. Smith, Dr. Freibergand everyone involved.   We have changed and we have learned.  Our resolve is unwavering and we are…Boston Strong!

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