, Gloucester, MA

April 18, 2013

'I was supposed to be there; I guess I'm lucky'

On the Mend
Joe DiVincenzo

---- — Five centuries before the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, the plains of Marathon were under siege.

Twenty-five-hundred years later, not much has changed.

It’s too difficult to put it all into perspective right now. It’s too difficult to process the chaos and certainly too difficult to understand the “why” behind it all — if that “why” even matters at this point.

On April 15th, the story of the Boston Marathon was not about the runners; it was about tragedy and heroism. Evil and good. The worst and the best capacities of the human spirit.

I believe that the pen is in fact mightier than the sword and that hope will always shine brighter than despair. So, instead of dwelling on the sadness, I’d like to share with you the responsibilities of the medical professionals in the tent.

On a normal race day you’ll find doctors, physician assistants, nurses and therapists aiding injured and sick runners. The typical problems of hyper- and hypothermia, electrolyte imbalances and musculoskeletal injuries are all handled swiftly and effectively.

I volunteered my services as a therapist in medical Tent B last year. I was a small cog in a giant wheel that helped more than 800 collapsed athletes back on their feet. From cramps and sprains to cardiac arrhythmias, I felt like I had contributed and had a smile on my face for weeks to come.

But that’s not what happened this year. I was supposed to be there, but ended up not going. I guess I’m lucky.

It was one valiant effort after the next to tie off wounds to stop the bleeding. It was carrying the injured to safety. It was replenishing fluid to those who lost blood before ambulances could bring them to a hospital.

On Marathon Monday, ordinary men and women rose above the fear and chaos and chose to save lives. They put themselves at risk, rushing into harm’s way even as more bombs were being discovered. Many of them were forced from their posts as the tents were evacuated.

Like thousands of other people, I spent the day worrying about several of my colleagues and my best friend who were there working when the explosions occurred. It wasn’t until I received a text message saying, “Here. OK. Helping out” that I could breathe a heavy-hearted and tenuous sigh of relief and pride.

For the why-sayers and the who-sayers out there who won’t rest until justice is served, all I can offer you is this: It takes thousands of people — good people — to make a marathon happen.

My friend will be there next year, volunteering as she always does. So will I.

Gloucester resident Joe DiVincenzo is a physical therapist and clinical specialist in manual therapy. He writes “On the Mend” weekly. Questions and comments may be submitted by email to