EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

April 17, 2013

Finish line volunteer ends up working triage

By Paul Tennant

---- — At North Station a different reality began to peek through the typical commute. Two men in green camouflage and bulging packs walked among the coffee and newspaper kiosks. A policeman led a dog through the streaming commuters, surreptitiously walking close to bags and small groups of people.

NORTH ANDOVER — Emily Moldoff, an emergency medical technician who aspires to be a physician’s assistant, said she looks forward to volunteering her services each year at the Boston Marathon finish line.

The Salem, N.H., resident, who will soon graduate from Merrimack College with a degree in health sciences, said she was “really excited” when she was asked to be a sweep team captain, coordinating a group of 20 or so care providers in guiding injured runners to one of the medical tents and determining what treatment they need.

She got more than she bargained for Monday afternoon. When she heard the first explosion, at 2:50 p.m., she asked, “Are you kidding? Is it thundering?”

When she heard the second bang a few minutes later, she thought it might have come from construction taking place nearby.

“Then I heard the sirens,” she recalled. A police officer told her there had been an explosion, but he knew nothing beyond that, she said.

So she ran to one of the medical tents, where she saw people being loaded onto ambulances.

“It was very chaotic,” she said. “There were patients on cots everywhere.” Most of them, she noted, were not runners.

Moldoff, 22, has been an EMT for four years. Nothing in her work experience prepared her for Monday’s disaster.

“I have never been involved in a massive triage,” she said. Many of the victims had leg injuries and “were losing a lot of blood,” she said.

Some of them applied tourniquets to themselves, she added.

A woman in her teens or 20s who had suffered shrapnel wounds to her legs and lost a great deal of blood at first appeared to be stable, but Moldoff could see that she was losing consciousness.

“She didn’t look right,” she said. “She started declining.” Moldoff tried talking to the young woman to get a better idea of what her condition was, but her responses made no sense, she explained.

“She was in and out” of conscientious, she said – going into shock. The volunteers were told to cut off the victims’ clothes to get them ready for treatment at a hospital, she said.

“She was just so upset,” Moldoff recalled. “She was in a lot of pain.” The young woman eventually was taken to a hospital.

Moldoff said she thinks the woman survived.

The police blocked off most of the streets near the finish line and finally told people to leave Boston. Moldoff walked to her sister’s dorm at Simmons College. From there, she took a subway to Riverside Station in Newton, got in her car and went home.

Monday’s experience “hasn’t sunk in,” said Moldoff, the daughter of Amy and Ross Moldoff. This was the third year she volunteered at the Marathon. Asked if she plans to do it again next year, she said, “Absolutely.”