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Boston: Coincidences, Complexity, Continuity, Care

By Cyndy Nayer, April 25, 2013

ImageAmerica's Freedoms Are Our Vulnerabilities

There is no doubt that the terrorism of the Boston Marathon 2013 was heart-stopping, heart-rending, and a cruel reminder that America's freedoms are also our vulnerabilities.  It's also a bit ironic that, because of a family emergency, both of my daughters had flown down to our house and were with us when the bombs went off.  Why is this important enough for me to mention here?  Because if my older daughter hadn't come down to help, she would have been exactly at the finish line where the bomb went off. Coincidence?

I don't believe in coincidences.

The week, and the socialmediasphere, have been resplendent with coincidences, the most poignant of which was the story of the couple who both were in the health care provider space, both came to cheer the runners of the marathon, both had a portion of their left legs blown off in the explosion.  They were separated by the blast, and they remain separated in different hospitals, but they are recovering and they are talking by phone to each other (see below for how you can help).

Who were the terrorists, what was their motivation, what will happen to the survivor, I have to leave to the sleuths and judicial systems to discover and decide.  My work is to uncover the learnings that we can all ingest to fortify our health promotion and business recovery.  Here are some thoughts.

1.  Boston has terrific hospitals, prepared for trauma management.  I've managed many fitness events, and, of course, a key component was the clinical staff onsite.  They volunteered their time for running injuries, dehydration, and the sort.  Some of them on April 15 had seen combat duty in Afghanistan and Iraq, and they were able to flip into mash-unit mode quickly.  All of the injured who made it to the hospitals have survived, albeit many have much rehabilitation to work through.

2.  Boston has moxie and motivation.  Bostonions have been described recently as gritty, defiant, and strong, and this makes great sense since this is the birthplace of the American Revolution--the shot heard round the world--and of the freedoms that would coalesce into the US Constitution.  When the explosions came, the runners ran INTO the crowds to help those who were hurt, ran to the hospitals to give blood (another 2.5 miles after their 26.2 mile run), and reached out to one another.  They may fight like family, but when the pressure is on, Boston is one big supportive family. For more on the grittiness of Bostonians, and a chuckle, click here to see Colbert's Report for April 16, one day after the bombs.  

3.  Boston finishes what it starts. Samuel Adams (not the beer, but the revolutionary) said, “Nil desperandum, Never Despair. That is a motto for you and me. All are not dead; and where there is a spark of patriotic fire, we will rekindle it.” There were people around the nation, and now, around the world (London) running races for Boston over the past 10 days, and there will be more.  There are calls for boosting the economy and taking Boylston Street back--it opened today--and for helping those who were locked out of their homes and businesses for these days.  This is the Boston that warned of the Red Coats, rode the Freedom Trail, waited 86 years for the Red Sox pennant.  When folks were hurt, people did what they could:  one woman baked oatmeal chocolate chip cookies for the police/troopers/FBI/ATF, etc. to eat when the 2nd suspect was arrested.  Grit and defiance demand food, too, after all.

4.  Boston wears its patriotism and small-town love proudly.    Read this excerpt from one of the London marathoners, who also ran in Boston:

“I had a hard day out here,” said Neynens, who wore a 2013 Boston Marathon hat during his London run and finished in 2:48:09. “I was hurting, but obviously I was not hurting near as much as the injuries that I saw, people who lost their legs. I finished for all those people who were hurt and those people who couldn’t finish last Monday...

There was a banner we passed around Mile 25 that said, ‘Run if you can. Walk if you must. But finish for Boston.’ That meant a lot to everybody. It was great to see the support of everybody out there for the runners and for Boston."

 There were lessons for health, healthcare, and healthcare reform, too.

1.  Interoperability of electronic medical records could have been a problem.  In the marathon were runners and family-watchers from around the world.  What if there were a diabetic runner who, because of the bombings, was delayed in his/her sugar control?  There are so many other "what ifs" that the message is clear:  we need to quickly find a way to make these EMR-EHR-PHR talk to one another for the safety and security of the providers, patients, and communities.  We cannot afford to waste time finding a knowledgeable relative when life hangs in the balance.  [I wrote about this lack of interoperability in my post "EHR Is Speechless"].  There is no magic about data, the rules engines can be preserved as proprietary to each company, but the data must be accessible.

2.  Teamwork. Who will ever forget the masses of security forces closing in on the final suspect?  Or the video of the Chief of Police of Watertown MA saying his troops were never trained on counterterrorism, so they just did what was they thought was right?    Those of us riveted to the scenes will remember the ATF, FBI, fire departments, EMT, Boston police, State Troopers, and so many more.  But how many noticed that hot food was brought by the NY-NJ Port Authorities?  How many could ever forget the cheers and singing and clapping by the Watertown citizens when the ambulances and security cars crept slowly back into the city?  Now, imagine those kinds of teamwork in communities of care, with warm "handoffs" from primary care (Watertown police) to specialists (BPD, ATF, FBI, MA troopers) to recovery and long-term care (Red Cross, Boston Globe, and so many other watch-dogs and care providers).  Everyone had their job and new exactly what they had to do.

3.  Continuity and safety.  Recently I saved an article on the rates of hospital infections in the US compared globally, sent to me from my colleagues at  Because of the trauma training, the warm handoffs, and the sense of accountability, continuity is a given in Boston.  It's the accountability that will guard the injured, the fallen and the recovery.  There's a new sense of "we share in this," and it's this sense that carry Boston through.  That's the real message of accountability:  we all own at least a portion of the problem, whether it's economic recovery or health promotion, and we all have a responsibility to step up to manage our community better.

Of course, in the land of the Red Sox, with the frame of David Ortiz' opening moments in Fenway Park, and the surprise visit from Neil Diamond to lead Sweet Caroline, the poignant moments caused tears and love and hugs.  For us who weren't in Fenway, or Boston, or Watertown, I treasure the picture that went viral on twitter and other social outlets:

 Fred Rogers HelpersI don't think there are any coincidences.  I abhor terror, bloodshed, violence.  But these moments that I've called out remind me, and I hope all of us, of the goodness of people.  Who could possibly convey it better than Fred Rogers?  We needed to hear his words, "Look for the helpers," right then, right at that moment.  It opened our hearts and made us feel safe again, and we spotted more helpers and lavished praise, because we all needed to heal.

And then Boston Daughter (who had returned to Boston) sent me an email and a picture that she took, the one that starts this blog post, the site that amazed and tore and then opened her heart.  She told me she couldn't sleep, walked to the memorial Monday morning at 5am to pay her respects, and left her pink running shoes because she wanted to be part of the healing, too.

If you want to be one of the helpers, here are two ideas for you for donations.  There are many more, I simply had intersections with each of these here:

If you, like me and my Boston daughter, are an avid fitness participant, then you may want to make a purchase at @unitedwestride UnitedWeStride will donate all the proceeds from the purchase AND AN ADDITIONAL DOLLAR

@JetBlue  I audaciously sent a tweet on 4.22 to @JetBlue asking for serious discounts to Boston so we could boost the economy--I'm betting others did, too. On 4.23 I received an email with serious discounts.  Help those most affected by the Boston tragedy through The One Fund Boston, and JetBlue will match up to $100K.

 I hope peace comes to those who mourn and to those who heal.  I hope strength comes to our leaders and our protectors.  I hope our communities come together for health.

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