Boston Nightmare

Massachusetts General Hospital Deals With Shrapnel, Severed Limbs, and Amputations

Massachusetts General had never seen so many patients on stretchers lining the hallways of the hospital. It’s not every day doctors operate on severed limbs. Lizzie Crocker reports from Boston.

04.16.13 10:33 AM ET

Doctors and nurses were quiet as they left Massachusetts General Hospital Monday night, roughly five hours after two bombs exploded during the Boston Marathon. 

“I just want to go home,” said one young female nurse when asked about the 29 patients who are currently being treated at Mass General from the dual blasts that detonated in Boston’s Copley Square, just two miles down the road.

There was a chilling calm in the darkness, a stark contrast for those who had tended to severed limbs in the bright lights of operating rooms or witnessed the bloody mayhem on Boylston Street in daylight.

Speaking at a press conference at 10:00 p.m. Monday, Dr. Peter Fagenholz, a surgeon at Mass General, confirmed that they had performed several amputations and were dealing with a large number of shrapnel injuries. Fagenholz said he personally performed six operations.

"I had never seen so many patients on stretchers throughout the hallways," an employee at Mass General's Emergency Room who asked to remain anonymous told The Daily Beast. “We tried to clear out patiets to have enough space to handle the volume of people comingg and allocate them to areas in the Emergency Department." She added that the hospital's response to the influx of patients and their families, and to the physical and emotional needs of these individuals, was "truly mind blowing."

Earlier in the day, marathon runners and spectators witnessed a different kind of war zone.

“People were laying on the ground, bloodied and mangled,” Matt Hodgens, 32, told reporters outside Mass General. He was watching the race with a friend when the first blast detonated roughly 20 yards away from them. Ten seconds later, after the second bomb went off, “people started trampling each other.”

“It was a mob scene, like something that you see in a movie or on the news in another country. It’s not something that you experience on Patriots’ Day at the Boston Marathon,” said Hodgens, who grew up watching the marathon every year with his family, handing out orange slices to thirsty runners.

The holiday commemorating the first battles of the American Revolutionary War will now be viewed as a day of mourning for the three people who were killed on “Marathon Monday,” including one 8-year old boy, and dozens of others who were injured, many of whom remain in critical condition.

In his speech following Monday’s attacks, President Obama noted the holiday: “It’s a day that celebrates the free and fiercely independent spirit that this great American city of Boston has reflected from the earliest days of our nation.”

Speculation had already fueled on Twitter about the significance of Patriots’ Day and a political motive for the attacks.

But for the residents of Boston, the enemy was of little significance when compared to the strength of those who banded together when chaos and tragedy struck.

“Yes, people were freaking out at the sight of others whose legs had been blown off, but they were also rushing to help,” said Hodgens. “That’s what sticks with me more than the act of terrorism.”