Volunteering for Boston “aka the Hot One”
“Here we go”.
The volunteer captain was peering over my shoulder at the tv monitors showing live images of Boston’s finish line, just a few hundred feet away. Sure enough, our first round of patients arrived just a moment later, several of them in wheelchairs, or being supported by medical volunteers. I had no idea what the next six hours would bring….
I was determined to be a part of the race this year, despite being injured just a few weeks out. Volunteering makes me feel like I am still in the game, even if I am not out pounding the pavement, something I learned after having to miss the 2009 race and working a water stop instead. A dear friend of mine had helped connect me with the volunteer captain for the medical records team and I found myself posted in the main med tent, just past the finish line, on Marathon Monday.With temperatures close to 80 at the start, and nearing 90 at the finish, we knew that the potential for more patients than usual was high and I was just really hoping that I would not find one of my running partners peering up at me from a cot.
The slow trickle of patients turned into steady waves about 2pm, but the doctors, nurses, PTs and other volunteers never broke a sweat. It was absolutely amazing to watch this finely tuned field hospital work. My captain brought me to a new assignment a bit after 2pm and it while it was incredible to watch, it scared the crap out of me. My post for the rest of the day was the heat tent.
This was the place for runners suffering from hyperthermia; most of the patients that came through had temperatures over 104 when they arrived. My job was to scribe for the medical team and to provide an extra pair of hands when needed. The tent was lined with huge ice plunges and at one point, every single one appeared to be filled. To say it was hectic would be putting it very mildly. At one point, I found myself elbows deep in icy water, trying to get a runner’s bib number unclipped so I could get her emergency contact’s name. I was absolutely terrified that the girl in front of me was not going to make it, but these med teams are incredible. Her physician and nurses got her temperature down in what seemed like no time at all, her eyes were open and she was able to talk.
This pattern repeated over and over: runners would come in looking awful (and some were unresponsive or massively confused) and end up leaving looking very close to normal. I was still scared that the next patient in would be someone I knew, but thankfully, that did not happen.
After nearly ten hours of operation, we were able to pack things up and I had a little time to reflect on the day. The folks I worked with were incredible and it was an awesome experience to be able to help runners out on a tough day. I was relatively sure that I was more tired than if I’d run the race, too. As a limped over to the train ( I’m still in the damn aircast) I spotted a runner who we’d treated earlier, who now looked like he was on the way to dinner with his family. As his kids scampered around his feet, I felt pretty good about myself.
Maybe I will have to do this again next year.