Transit police officer Richard Donohue, in an undated photo (MBTA/AP)
How could this be? A transit police officer lost “nearly all his blood” after a bullet cut through three major arteries in his thigh during last week’s firefight with the Boston Marathon bombing suspects — but now he’s “doing excellent” and expected to make a full recovery.
And the officer, Richard Donohue, was not alone in either his heavy blood loss or his positive prognosis.
The Boston Marathon bombs left the finish-line area splattered and pooled with blood, yet, says James Hooley, chief of Boston Emergency Medical Services, “Anybody who arrived alive in a Boston hospital is alive today.”
Bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev had reportedly been bleeding for many hours when he was finally found in a backyard boat, yet he recovered so fast that he has already been transferred from the hospital to prison.
This is not what happens in the movies. People who “bleed out” fade quickly, gasp a few last words, and then a sideward flop of the head signals that they have expired.
But in real life, trauma specialists say that among many other contributing factors to the success of Boston’s medical response to the bombings, the field has made important advances recently in treating patients with massive blood loss.
In fact, some of that progress makes quite a medical yarn, of how medicine can correct itself in the face of important new evidence.
‘We collected several units of this fresh whole blood, gave it to our wounded, and it was like magic.’
Dr. Daniel Dante Yeh, a trauma surgeon at Massachusetts General Hospital who helped treat the bombing victims, said that all his patients had lost a lot of blood.
“I remember, at the early stage of my training, how they would have gotten flooded with salt water and subsequently stayed in the ICU for weeks,” he said. “Although salt solutions can be lifesaving when there’s nothing else available, we’ve come to appreciate the harm they can cause when given in excess. The pendulum has swung back towards moderation and, in turn, our critically injured patients are doing better than ever.”
Salt water? Harm? Dr. Yeh explains the back-story of what he calls a sort of “re-revolution” in blood transfusions: Continue reading