Hospital continues to deliver in big way after Boston Marathon bombings

Boston Marathon survivor Heather Abbott is surrounded by staff memors of Spaulding Rehabilitation.

The Spaulding Rehabilitation Network & Partners Continuing Care

Last spring, Dr. David Crandell and his staff at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital — a building along the Charles River in Boston’s West End — were preparing to relocate to a new facility after more than 40 years.

They had no way of knowing that preparing to move would actually help them to work through an event of unimaginable proportions.

The preparations for the hospital’s move kept the facility’s bed count low, allowing Crandell and his team — on the most horrific and unfortunate of days — to give the best possible care to 33 Boston Marathon victims whose bodies and lives were changed forever when two bombs exploded near the finish line of one of the country’s most prestigious races.

“I tried to get a good night’s sleep (that first night) because I knew it would be long days ahead, and I didn’t take a day off for about three weeks after that,” Crandell said. “We knew we were going to be working pretty hard.”

Boston Marathon Tribute

And work hard they did, with results that exceeded Crandell’s expectations. In the months since the bombings, Spaulding has helped to rehabilitate all of the marathon patients — 32 adults and one child — with no inpatient victims remaining and only a few still getting outpatient treatment through Spaulding.

The path hasn’t been the same for each of the victims. Some were initially hospitalized, then returned home, only to be re-hospitalized to learn how to use a prosthesis. Others, because of the complex nature of their injuries, needed to undergo additional surgeries because their wounds couldn’t heal well enough to tolerate a prosthesis at all.

Some later had to have surgery to repair their hearing, but it’s a point of pride that none of the victims who initially had limb-saving procedures done needed subsequent amputations.

Of course, given the source, it should come as no surprise that the recovery has gone so fluidly for so many of those affected by the attacks. For Crandell, who first ran the Boston Marathon, himself, in 1994, this undertaking was personal, and he found comfort in, quite literally, getting his patients back on their feet.

“Everybody experiences the marathon,” Crandell said. “I’ve run the race, I’ve been a spectator, and the whole community experienced the bombing and its aftermath, and you really couldn’t separate out how you were experiencing the event.

“Obviously, focusing on patients was certainly a way of dealing or coping, and I had an outlet. By helping those folks, I felt like we were doing what we could at the time. I felt like it was, in some ways, a privilege and therapeutic to work with the population.”

As an additional show of support, Crandell will be running in this year’s marathon along with 100 other people as part of Spaulding’s “Race for Rehab” initiative. Crandell will also be teaming up with the Massachusetts Association for the Blind to serve as a guide for a blind runner during the race.

“I think it’s a tribute to my patients,” Crandell said. “When I tell my current patients and marathon survivors that I’m running this year, I think it’s meaningful. I saw directly how they were affected and how hard they had to work and continue to work, so I think it’s a tribute to their efforts and the families’ efforts.

A staff member works with a survivor.

“Running for the hospital and running as a guide, I think it brings awareness to people with disabilities and helps people focus on the abilities they do have.”

Crandell says he hasn’t been to the finish line of the marathon course since last year’s attacks, but when he crosses it on Monday, he suspects it will be a special moment for both himself and the patients he helped rehabilitate.