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Doctor on the Scene in Boston: ‘Tons of Mangled Extremities on the Ground’

Hari Sreenivasan spoke with Dr. Albert Pendleton who was one of the first doctors on the scene of the explosions that killed three people and injured several others near the finish line of the Boston Marathon Monday.

Dr. Albert Pendleton was 5 feet from the finish line at the Boston Marathon when two explosions ripped through the street, killing three and injuring more than 130, “in a bloody scene of shattered glass and severed limbs that raised alarms that terrorists might have struck again in the U.S.,” the Associated Press reported.

As a volunteer M.D., Pendleton was expecting to help runners with a variety of injuries and trauma that can regularly occur after a race. Instead he was knocked to the ground by the force of the bombs, and was able to recover in time to help the injured around him. He ferried victims of the blast into medical tents nearby where he could dress and treat the wounds.

“Almost all of (the injured had) lower extremity injuries. I think the blast just basically … blew out the legs of everybody,” he said over the phone from Boston. “Almost everybody had open tibia and ankle fractures. … There were tons of mangled extremities on the ground.”

Luckily, volunteer doctors and first responders were ready on the scene where a “mobile hospital” was set up to be able to treat anything from dehydration to more severe trauma. Pendleton said it included a “mini ICU” equipped with supplies, beds and several doctors.

“We have tons of field dressings and gauze … and IV fluids, which is what you need for right-away stuff. We had probably 200 beds,” he said.

As an orthopedic surgeon, Pendleton has seen his share of wounded limbs, but hours after the blast, he hasn’t completely processed the weight of the tragedy.

“I’ve seen a lot of mangled extremities, I’ve seen things like that a lot, but not ever in that number all in one spot.”

Pendleton is currently a fellow focused on pediatric sports medicine at Harvard’s Children’s Hospital Boston.


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