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ER doc recounts 'shocking' aftermath of Boston Marathon bombing

Tuesday - 4/15/2014, 11:29am  ET

Leana Wen (WTOP/Paula Wolfson)
Dr. Leana Wen consults with nurse Ashley Jacob in the emergency room at George Washington University Hospital. (WTOP/Paula Wolfson)

WASHINGTON -- She tended to the bloody, battered and dying on the day of the Boston Marathon bombing. One year later, Dr. Leana Wen says her memories of April 15, 2013, are still fresh and as strong as her Boston pride.

Wen was working in the emergency room at Massachusetts General Hospital when two bombs exploded near the finish line.

It was almost three o'clock in the afternoon when the first victims began to arrive.

"All I remember is dozens and dozens of patients coming through -- all covered with soot and blood," says Wen.

She says she there were so many people in need that everything became a blur.

Some were missing limbs, while others had schrapnal imbedded in their bodies.

Emergency room personnel train hard for days like that, but the sheer enormity of the tragedy made it tough to take.

"To see everyone come in all at the same time and see so many people being injured right in our own backyard -- that was the shocking part," says Wen.

Hospital staffers put their emotions on hold as more patients arrived, and rumors fueled uncertainty. There were reports of multiple other bombs, and perhaps hundreds, if not thousands, of people being injured.

Wen says those inside the emergency room had no idea what was really going on outside the ER, and they had no answers for patients who wanted to know the fate of family members and friends who were either marathon runners or spectators along the race route.

Secretly, Wen knew she shared their fears. Moments before the first bomb exploded, she received a text from her husband, Sebastian Walker. They lived near the race course and he said he was going down to the finish line.

Phone circuits were jammed, and even if she could reach him, Wen had no time to place a call.

"So every patient who came in, I had no idea if the next person I'd see would be my husband, she recalls.

Wen tried to keep her emotions at bay during the long shift in the ER. It wasn't until she left the hospital that the sadness and terror of the day caught up with her.

"I still could not figure out where my husband was. And I remember thinking, 'How could we move on after this?' and how there would be really two lives -- one that happened before the marathon and one that happened after."

She was soon reunited with her husband, who was not harmed in the bombing.

For this couple, life after the marathon has meant a move to D.C. and a new job for Wen as an attending physician in the emergency department at George Washington University Hospital.

She plans to be working in the G.W. ER when the 2014 Boston Marathon is run on April 21.

But Wen says she will be along the race course in spirit.

"I want to stay Boston strong."

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