Duty First For Marathon Bombing Suspect’s Nurses

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COMMITMENT TO HEAL OVERCOMES AMBIVALENCE

EDITOR’S NOTE: An article, excerpted below, by Liz Kowalczyk, staff writer for The Boston Globe, appeared in the paper’s Sunday edition telling the compelling story of the nine trauma nurses who spent “an extraordinarily draining six days” treating Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the 19-year-old suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings.

It is nearly two centuries ago that Florence Nightingale carried a lamp through the wards of sick, injured and dying soldiers, yet it is as if that very lamp has illuminated the centuries ahead, bringing clarity, efficiency and reform in health care and hygiene. Much of the training that nurses undergo today is based on her methods and teachings. Thousands of lives were saved by her and the many nurses who trained under her.

It is nearly two centuries ago that Florence Nightingale came to prominence while serving as a nurse during the Crimean War. She carried a lamp through the wards of sick, injured and dying soldiers, yet it is as if that very lamp has illuminated the centuries ahead, bringing clarity, efficiency and reform in health care and hygiene. Much of the training that nurses undergo today is based on her methods and teachings. Thousands of lives were saved by her and the many nurses who trained under her.

After a prolonged manhunt and citywide lockdown, Tsarnaev was captured, but not before suffering multiple injuries, including gunshot wounds, which required critical care management. The Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center nurses who cared for Tsarnaev were faced with “the ultimate test of Florence Nightingale’s founding ideals,” the Globe reports. They were asked to treat the suspected Boston Marathon bomber after spending a week caring for 24 of his victims.

According to the hospital, all the nurses asked to participate in Tsarnaev’s care agreed to do so. One supervisor told a nurse, “You don’t have to do this.” She told the Globe, “I did it because I’m a nurse and I don’t get to pick and choose my patients.”

Seven of Tsarnaev’s nurses agreed to be interviewed by Kowalczyk, although they did not discuss any specifics of Tsarnaev’s treatment. In fact, they were reluctant to unburden themselves to anyone about their stressful days at Tsarnaev’s bedside, including their spouses, because of patient privacy rules, but also due to conflicting emotions and professional commitment.  Their greatest source of solace over the ambivalent feelings they harbored about treating a “terrorist” turned out to be confiding in one another.

THE BOSTON GLOBE — The 29-year-old trauma nurse was on-call at home, unwinding in front of a “Friends’’ television marathon on a Friday night. She had been ministering to patients horribly injured in the Boston Marathon bombings and craved a distraction. But she couldn’t resist flipping to the news, and as she did, police surrounded Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, cowering and bloody inside a parked pleasure boat.

Then her smartphone rang.

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Nine BIDMC trauma nurses spent “an extraordinarily draining six days” treating Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the 19-year-old suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings, after spending a week caring for 24 of his victims. (Shutterstock inage)

A nursing supervisor told the young woman to hurry into work. She didn’t know it yet, but within hours, she would be one of Tsarnaev’s bedside nurses, soothing the accused terrorist’s pain and healing his wounds — just as she had done for some of his victims.

As she raced to Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC), that possibility unfolded in her mind. She replayed a conversation she had had with her husband earlier in the week. She wasn’t sure she could nurse a terrorist, she had told him. “You have to do it,’’ she recalled him saying. “You have to do it so we can get answers.’’

At the hospital, the head nurse sent her to prepare Tsarnaev’s room, ushering her into a confidential fellowship of nine trauma nurses. They were required to show identification and let police search their purses at up to four separate checkpoints to reach Tsarnaev’s heavily guarded room in an intensive care unit where all of the beds but his were eerily empty.

CLICK HERE to read the complete story on BostonGlobe.com.


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