updated 04/16/2013 AT 5:25 PM ET
•originally published 04/16/2013 AT 6:45 PM ET
In a hospital emergency room where tiny little patients are saved every day, medical staff has seen a lot of tragedy and trauma. But on April 15 at Boston Children’s Hospital, the injuries that came through the door were different.
“These kids were really badly hurt,” says trauma surgeon Dr. David Mooney, director of the trauma center at Boston Children’s Hospital. “They had soot all over their faces, burnt hair and burnt eyebrows and tourniquets on their legs that first responders had put there to save their lives and keep them from bleeding to death.”
Mooney says that the hospital sees an average of 30 to 40 injured children a day and many times they turn out to be less serious than what they’d originally thought.
“It was really the opposite,” he says. “It was horrible. It was hard to imagine someone would do this.”
The nature of the injuries were also unique.
“A little girl had a lot of injuries, and nails were sticking out of her body,” he says. “We were removing nails from the flesh in her side. That was the thing that gives you pause.”
Mooney, who was on the phone with his wife when she told him about the blasts at the Boston Marathon, went to the emergency room to initiate a “code triage” and get staff ready quickly. Though it was a holiday and there was reduced staff in the hospital, within an hour, personnel voluntarily came in – some parking as close as they could and then walking the rest of the way because of blocked streets.
Staff treated 10 patients, three of them severely injured. Martin Richard, 8, who was killed in the blast, was not a patient at Boston Children’s, says Mooney.
“I wish he would have made it to us so we could have had a shot at saving him,” says Mooney.
Of the three critically injured patients – a 2-year-old boy with a head injury, a 10-year-old boy with multiple leg injuries and a 9-year-old girl with a leg injury – two are expected to have more surgeries. The other seven patients have been discharged.
“These kids will live, they have things that can be fixed,” he says.
A father of four, Mooney says that parents can reassure their kids if they want to talk about the tragedy and the explosions.
“You can reassure them that while bad things do happen,” he says, “ninety-nine percent of the world is good.”