Doctor Reflects on Saving Lives After Boston Marathon Bombing

Dr. King served as an Army surgeon during multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan

By Kristy Lee
|  Saturday, Apr 12, 2014  |  Updated 8:50 AM EDT
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Surgeon David King crossed the finish line of the Boston Marathon safely before the bombs exploded there. But when he rushed to work in the emergency room of Massachusetts General Hospital soon after, he realized this was no mere accidental explosion that had torn through a crowd.

He began with the Boston Marathon, crossing the finish line in three hours and 12 minutes. Afterwords, the Massachusetts General Hospital surgeon checked his cell phone. The first texts were the usual ones from friends watching his progress online.

"Telling me things like, you know, 'Good race,' 'Strong race,' or some sarcastic friends saying, 'You're so slow,' 'Loser,' 'Go faster,' you know," he told NECN with a smile.

But then new texts started pouring in.

"People asking me confusing things like, 'Are you okay?' 'Heard something went wrong,' and then somewhere in there, somebody put 'I heard there was an explosion,'" he recalled.

Dr. King didn't know about the bombings, since he'd finished an hour earlier, but something told this trauma surgeon to rush to work at Massachusetts General Hospital.

What Dr. King saw in the E.R. told him everything.

"It's a pattern, a set of injury characteristics that I've seen hundreds and hundreds of times before while deployed in the military, and I knew that it wasn't a kitchen fire or some kind of a terrible accident, that it was clearly some kind of improvised explosive device," he said.

Dr. King served as an Army surgeon during multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"When it comes to your own country, it's particularly disturbing, your own state more so, your own city certainly, but there's something very personal about when it happens to your own marathon," he said.

That's when the second marathon began, this time as a surgeon. Dr. King and the rest of the trauma team operated on 15 bombing patients, and didn't stop for 30 hours straight. As those long hours were a blur, Dr. King can hardly believe the one year anniversary is already here.

"You can at look at anybody who got injured and they have a story to tell, and that's what this year's reflection should be about. It should be about them and their stories and their journeys," Dr. King said.

A journey for the survivors and the city that Dr. King spoke of three days after the bombing during a news conference.

"We will rise from the ashes and we will be stronger," Dr. King said April 18.

"I think it's somewhat uncanny that I used those words, and particularly that word about 'strong' because the whole Boston Strong thing really hadn't emerged at that point yet. It's clear that I wasn't the only one thinking that," he said in his interview with NECN.

Dr. King will be running again in this year's race in honor of his patients.

"If those stories of recovery won't make you run faster, I don't know what will," he said.

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