BOSTON — The screams and cries of bloody marathon bombing victims still haunt the nurses who treated them one week ago. They did their jobs as they were trained to do, putting their own fears in a box during their 12-hour shifts so they could better comfort their patients.
Only now are these nurses beginning to come to grips with what they endured — and are still enduring as they continue to care for survivors. They are angry, sad and tired. A few confess they would have trouble caring for the surviving suspect, 19-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, if he were at their hospital and they were assigned his room.
And they are thankful. They tick off the list of their hospital colleagues for praise: from the security officers who guarded the doors to the ER crews who mopped up trails of blood. The doctors and — especially — the other nurses.
Nurses from Massachusetts General Hospital, which treated 22 of the 187 victims the first day, candidly recounted their experiences in interviews with The Associated Press. Here are their memories:
THEY WERE SCREAMING
Megann Prevatt, ER nurse: “These patients were terrified. They were screaming. They were crying … We had to fight back our own fears, hold their hands as we were wrapping their legs, hold their hands while we were putting IVs in and starting blood on them, just try to reassure them: `We don’t know what happened, but you’re here. You’re safe with us.’ … I didn’t know if there were going to be more bombs exploding. I didn’t know how many patients we’d be getting. All these thoughts are racing through your mind.”
Adam Barrett, ICU nurse, shared the patient bedside with investigators searching for clues that might break the case. “It was kind of hard to hear somebody say, `Don’t wash that wound. You might wash evidence away.”’ Barrett cleaned shrapnel and nails from the wounds of some victims, side by side with law enforcement investigators who wanted to examine wounds for blast patterns. The investigator’s request took him aback at first. “I wasn’t stopping to think, `What could be in this wound that could give him a lead?”’
THEIR FACES, THEIR SMILES
Jean Acquadra, ICU nurse, keeps herself going by thinking of her patients’ progress. “The strength is seeing their faces, their smiles, knowing they’re getting better. They may have lost a limb, but they’re ready to go on with their lives. They want to live. I don’t know how they have the strength, but that’s my reward: Knowing they’re getting better.”
She is angry and doesn’t think she could take care of Tsarnaev, who is a patient at another hospital, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center: “I don’t have any words for him.”
THE NEED FOR JUSTICE
Christie Majocha, ICU nurse: “Even going home, I didn’t get away from it,” Majocha said. She is a resident of Watertown, the community paralyzed Friday by the search for the surviving suspect. She helped save the lives of maimed bombing victims on Monday. By week’s end, she saw the terror come to her own neighborhood. The manhunt, she felt, was a search for justice, and was being carried out directly for the good of her patients.
“I knew these faces (of the victims). I knew what their families looked like. I saw their tears,” she said. “I know those families who are so desperate to see this end.”
On Friday night, she joined the throngs cheering the police officers and FBI agents, celebrating late into the night even though she had to return to the hospital at 7 a.m. the next day.