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April 17, 2013

'I absolutely knew we saved lives'

Port medical personnel among first responders

NEWBURYPORT — Roughly two minutes after the second of two bombs exploded near the finish line of Monday’s Boston Marathon, cardiac surgery physician assistants Dixie Patterson and Courtney Luck, along with Dr. Jennifer Finch, bolted out of the race’s medical tent and began sprinting to the blast site.

The three Newburyport residents and friends could tell by the tremendous tent-rattling thuds that something very wrong had just happened yards away.

For much of the race, their time spent inside the tent was rather routine. Early in the morning, Patterson and Luck, who works at Anna Jaques Hospital in Newburyport, posed for a series of iPhone photos. A crisp spring day meant the number of runners suffering from dehydration, cramps and other marathon-related ailments remained low.

But when the call came for all medical personnel to grab what supplies they could and run to the finish line, they — and everyone else in the tent — ignored the fact that they were dashing into what could be a very dangerous situation. Awaiting the three Newburyport volunteers was pure carnage — something usually only seen by combat troops. It was a scene so bloody and traumatic that it tested the mettle of the most seasoned health care provider.

“Anyone there, no matter how long you’ve done this, this was like a battlefield. At first you can’t believe what you’re seeing, you think it’s a movie,” said Patterson, who works at the North Shore Medical Center in Salem.

Joining EMTs and other emergency personnel, the trio began frantically working, using whatever means they could to stop blood from gushing out of what they said were mostly lower extremity injuries. Runners, kneeling in blood and glass, took off their shirts and handed them to emergency workers. Belts were furiously removed from waists and used as a tourniquets.

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