235 North Pearl Street, Brockton, MA 02301 508-427-3000
Left-Right: Bobby O'Donnell, Jr; Capt. Robert O’Donnell EMT-P, RN; Richard S. Herman, MD
Brockton, MA – Before a standing-room only audience made up largely of EMS personnel from Brockton, Mansfield, Bridgewater, Easton, Stoughton and other communities, fire captain, Bobby O’Donnell, EMT-P and RN at the Stoughton Fire Department gave a personal account of his first-hand experience at the finish line at the Boston Marathon as the bombings occurred.
Sharing vivid pictures, videos and audio tapes, O’Donnell recounted how daily experiences in the field and lessons learned from Mass Casualty Incident (MCI) trainings and drills helped save lives.
Captain O’Donnell commented on what he observed that worked well: the establishment of Incident Command Protocols and inter-agency coordination at “the core”; the use of social media to communicate when cell phones ceased to function; the heroic acts of civilians and first responders who used basic techniques such as applying direct pressure to wounds, elevating limbs and applying tourniquets to save victims. Without IV’s, fluids, plasma and other sophisticated medical supplies, everyone in the immediate area responded instantly to help.
At one point during his presentation O’Donnell commented, “After immediately thinking of my son who was running the race, and knowing there was nothing I could do at that moment for him, I ran towards the smoke and immediately started assessing and triaging.” O’Donnell continued, “I didn’t see anyone running away from the scene despite the risk of additional devices. I knew if my son were injured, someone would be helping him the same way we worked together viewing every wounded person as a member of our family.”
O’Donnell reflected on the stress that exposure to MCI’s can cause. For bystanders, it can be referred to as “acute stress” which may manifest after the initial event once the media attention is gone and the long and difficult process of recovery begins.
For EMS providers who experience MCI’s on a smaller scale every day as part of their jobs, O’Donnell reinforced the importance of being aware of the “cumulative” stress and how an incident such as the bombing could affect them. “It’s important for us to take care of ourselves,” he added.
With his son Bobby, Jr. at his side, Captain O’Donnell was given a “Hero Award” by Richard Herman, MD, Chief of Emergency Medicine at Good Samaritan Medical Center. In part it read,
“Good Samaritan recognizes Capt. Robert O’Donnell EMT-P, RN for attending to the medical needs of the hurt and wounded with compassion and respect…We commemorate Capt. O’Donnell’s for his exemplary skills, judgment and individual dedication to providing medical care under the most chaotic and severe circumstances. We thank Capt. O’Donnell and honor him for his bravery and impactful presence at the Boston Marathon on that fateful day. We ask our colleagues to celebrate his heroism and service and to follow his exceptional leadership example. Thank you, Capt. O’Donnell. We are proud to call you a colleague, a leader, a friend and a hero.”
Michael S. Murphy MD, Director of EMS at Brigham and Women’s/Faulkner Hospitals gave the second presentation of the evening. Murphy also experienced the medical aftermath of the Boston Marathon Bombing and discussed the logistical movement from the field to the Emergency Department.