By James Niedzinski
---- — Caroline Jouhourian, resident physician at Tufts University Medical Center, had just finished working a 12-hour shift at an intensive care unit in Brockton before heading to her South Boston home on Monday.
From there, on her day off, she set off immediately to celebrate a co-worker’s birthday and meet up with friends and athletes during the Boston Marathon, an event she attends as regularly as possible.
A competitive runner herself, Dr. Jouhourian, who grew up in Rockport and is a 2001 graduate of Rockport High School, was down Boylston Street watching the race with friends, when two blasts shattered the scene near the race’s finish line.
”I saw the second one go off, and it was just mayhem from there,” she said in a telephone interview Thursday.
Amid the chaos, she first asked police if she could help on the scene, but instead, soon ran back to work at Tufts, roughly 11/2 miles away.
”The diversity of injuries ranged from perforated eardrums to fractures and second-degree burns,” she said.
From there, things did not get better.
”The next thing I know, there’s a code black.”
That meant a bomb threat had been called in as Jouhourian was arriving. And while it proved to be false, all of the patients had to be taken from the emergency room to the atrium due to the bomb scare, she said.
Jouhourian said she did not perform any procedures herself as patients went directly to the operation room, but she stayed on the job for several hours, helping to prepare patients for surgery and treatment while Tufts had about six operating rooms running at once.
”She doesn’t think of herself as a hero, but many people do,” Jouhourian’s friend and 1997 Rockport High graduate Lindsay Lowell said Thursday. The two had been in touch that morning, and Lowell told Jouhourian she could not get the day off work because she had taken a day off last week to catch the Red Sox home opener.
Lowell said that she had many friends at the race, and her first reaction was ‘Where are you, and are you safe?”.
Because of the limited cellphone service, Jouhourian put up a Facebook status saying she was OK — and had gone in to work at Tufts, Lowell said.
Jouhourian said she was just doing her job that day, staying at Tufts Medical Center until about 9:30 p.m. and returning to the emergency room next morning.
“I personally don’t feel like a hero at all,” she said, noting people ran toward the explosions to rescue anyone they could.
Jouhourian said she cannot watch the news reports of the Marathon bombings anymore. She was, however, among the medical professionals and patients invited to the interfaith Mass at the Cathederal of the Holy Cross in Boston, joining Boston Mayor Tom Menino, Gov. Deval Patrick and President Barack Obama.
”They really said the right things, the energy in the room was just amazing; at the same time, very sad,” Jouhourian said. “For me, I felt personally attacked as a Bostonian, an American and as a runner.”
Karine Jouhourian, Caroline’s sister, recalled Thursday that, even from a young age, Caroline was set to follow in her father’s footsteps. Their father, Dr. Zaven Jouhourian, practices at Gloucester’s Addison Gilbert Hospital.
As to her Monday response, Caroline said Thursday that her work with patients in the bombing’s aftermath wasn’t a one-sided relationship; she said she got a lot out of helping the victims, too.
”It was my therapy,” she said. “Sitting and home and doing nothing is not going to be beneficial to me.”
She said she has never raced in a full length marathon, and isn’t ready to start now, though she has run half marathons before. She added that, with her career, she will not be running next year’s Boston Marathon, noting the training and dedication it takes to run a more than 26 miles.
But she will not, in any way, be deterred by Monday’s attacks.
”I will be at the finish line watching it,” she said.
James Niedzinski can be reached at 978-283-7000, x 3455 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.