When James Broadhurst, MD, returns to the medical tent at the Boston Marathon next week, he will bring with him 10 years of experience providing care to runners who have just crossed the finish line, as well as many more years as a physician and teacher. He will also bring with him the memories of being part of a team caring for traumatically injured runners and spectators last year in the aftermath of the bombings that shook the city.
This year, there will be about 36,000 runners—10,000 more than in a typical year. While this is in no way a typical year at the marathon, Dr. Broadhurst, assistant professor of family medicine & community health, will be doing his best to ensure that the joy of being part of the 118-year-old tradition shines through the memories of last year’s tragedy.
“I have no second thoughts about going back. But I really do want it to be a beautiful day again. I want the runners to finish and I want to take care of the runners who need care,” said Broadhurst.
He recently attended a three-hour preparation activity developed by the Boston Athletic Association, along with more than 350 fellow medical volunteers.
“The psychologist who is in charge of the psychological services at the marathon led off the preparation event this time talking about trauma, talking about how people are going to come back this year with feelings affected by their experiences the year before—Did I do enough? Could I have done more? What could we have done differently? Was I foolish to go running to the finish line or was I a coward for not running to the finish line?—There are many questions that caregivers have when they go through a difficult experience.”
As a teacher of medical students and residents, Broadhurst recognizes that traumatic experiences can happen on an average day at the medical center, noting that medical students responding to their first code in a hospital setting can experience feelings of self doubt or uselessness.
“Whether it’s here at the medical center teaching students and residents or whether it’s me and my colleagues in the medical tent in Boston teaching students and residents, these are very similar experiences that caregivers have when they are put suddenly in life and death situations,” said Broadhurst.
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