Boston Medical’s Family Center Helps Bombing Victims’ Loved Ones Cope
Shortly after the IEDs went off during April’s Boston Marathon bombing, hundreds of victims were treated by the city’s hospitals. Here’s how Boston Medical Center helped their families.
One critical aspect of responding to a disaster where there are a lot of victims is the management and care of worried family members and friends who are desperately searching area hospitals, trying to find out if their loved ones are injured or even alive.
After the Marathon bombings, Boston Medical Center (BMC) activated its family center, which, according to BMC Director of Public Safety and Control Center for Parking Services Constance Packard, hadn’t been activated for at least a quarter of a century. BMC’s family center was established in a location away from where the emergency vehicles were entering the facility but close to the entrances where people would come searching for their loved ones. Patient advocates, social workers, members of the clergy and administrators greeted the families. The IT department provided phone services and phone chargers. Food and beverages were also provided.
Packard says that during the first couple of hours, identifying victims and whether or not they were actually at BMC or at another location was difficult. This was especially upsetting for the victims’ families.
“You try to keep them calm,” she says. “Once you find out they’re truly here, we have the physicians over with psychiatry tell them how [their family member] came in and what [the doctors] were doing. Similar to Sandy Hook, there was a social worker and patient advocate and sometimes public safety or someone else assigned to each family so you can coordinate with one group instead of changing faces because we knew it was going to be long term. It was difficult telling people who came here that they couldn’t go up and visit their loved ones.”
To bridge the communications gap, clinical staff and employees of the family center collaborated to deliver notes to the victims, letting them know that their families were there for them.
In addition to dealing with all of the family members and visitors, however, BMC had to come to terms with their own tragedy when they discovered that one of their own, Boston University graduate student Lu Lingzi, was killed in the blast.
“That put a whole other level onto it because I had my hospital hat on, and within 24 hours, I had to put my school hat on to make sure the dean and president and everybody knew what we were doing for that family,” says Packard.
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