For medical tent volunteers, Marathon offers a welcome sense of normalcy after COVID toll

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The hectic and frantic months of spring 2020 have given way to subsequent COVID outbreaks, an ordeal that has taken a heavy toll on doctors and nurses who have faced the ravages of COVID firsthand. On Monday, Ginart will join 1,500 other health workers stationed in medical tents along the legendary Boston Marathon route, a well-deserved opportunity to savor a celebration of strength and resilience.

The marathon, which was canceled in 2020 and then moved from spring to fall this year, will bring a welcome sense of normalcy that “celebrates the spirit of human endurance, which I think is so much the subject of these last two years. Said Ginart, 32, a fourth-year Brigham and Women’s resident and first-time racing volunteer.

“The Boston Marathon has held a lot of significance and weight for a lot of people for many years to come, but this year in particular being able to come together and celebrate that endurance and resilience is something really poignant,” he said. -he adds. .

For Ginart, guiding families through end-of-life discussions has always been part of the job. So not being able to do it face to face due to the restrictions, and watching patients die on their own, were among the most distressing aspects of COVID care.

“Having them face to face at the bedside, being able to see what you see, I think that’s something I took for granted, how much it helps to be on the same page and to trying to figure out what the whole thing is the best thing to do for a patient, ”he said.

COVID-19 has been life-changing and game-changing, Ginart said, shifting priorities, clarifying the goal.

“In many ways, COVID has helped me muffle the noise,” he said. “It made me more intentional and more thoughtful about how I spend my time.”

When Heather Garvie, a 28-year-old surgical nurse at Tufts Medical Center, first volunteered in the Marathon medical tents in 2019, she left with such a sense of positivity that she couldn’t wait to return.

“I leave race day feeling really good about myself and my career,” said Garvie, “and how I was able to help make this event a reality and make it a memorable one for the runners.”

The 26.2 mile race is some people’s biggest achievement, she said. “Words cannot express how amazing it is to be a part of it for someone. We’re here to support them, and it’s amazing to see.

It’s a much needed positivity for Garvie, now more than ever.

At the start of the pandemic, work became “like a bad dream” that Garvie dreaded.

“I was terrified to come to work,” she said. “There was so much uncertainty. It was really very difficult and very emotional at times. “

“The whole flow of the hospital has completely changed; there were no visitors, we had no surgery. It was almost like a ghost town, ”Garvie said.

The return of the Marathon is an opportunity to hide the pessimism, she said. For her, this represents hope and progress and a meaningful return to tradition after difficult times.

“It symbolizes a positive turn of events in this pandemic, as though we may be coming to a turning point here,” Garvie said. “I have the impression that we need this little rally of energy. I think it’s going to really lift everyone’s spirits because it’s such a positive event to be a part of and celebrate. “

Chris Troyanos, the Boston Marathon’s medical coordinator since 1996, said it’s easy to bring together medical volunteers this year.

“It’s an iconic event and people love to be a part of it,” Troyanos said.

The medical tents – two at the start line, two near the finish line with over 100 beds each, and 26 tents in between – are mini-emergency rooms with high-tech lab equipment to check blood counts and sodium levels, and saline IVs for the dehydrated, Troyanos said.

The camaraderie, the cheerful spirit, and the opportunity to practice medicine in a fluid, outdoor event environment allow many volunteers to return year after year to be part of the close-knit medical team for the marathon, Troyanos said.

“It’s such a unique medical opportunity that they normally don’t see in a clinical setting,” he said, calling it a combination of sports medicine, disaster and event.

“We have so many people who are not from the region; they come from all over the country; they come from afar at their expense to participate in my medical program and they have been here for years.

Katie Powers, a maternity nurse at Manatee Memorial Hospital in Bradenton, Fla., Is back this year for her 10th Boston Marathon. If it hadn’t been canceled in 2020, it would be turning 11. It’s one of the many races she volunteers for each year, from New York to Texas to Washington, DC.

“It is an honor and a privilege to work with such an incredible medical team,” said Powers. “It’s just amazing how we work together in a synchronized fashion. Many of us only see each other once a year, but we come together and work so closely as a team. “

At 7 a.m. on Monday, Powers and the others will be heading to tent B and other places near the finish line to receive their Marathon jackets and learn their tasks for the day. If the sun and warm temperatures hold up for Monday’s race, heat stroke and dehydration will be the main conditions to deal with, Powers said.

But it can go a long way, she said, from fatigue and cramps to panic attacks and incontinence.

“You name it,” Powers said. “You experience it in the medical tent.”

For Dr Jeffrey Schneider, the marathon has been near and dear since he was a little boy in Framingham, handing out orange slices to passing runners. The 48-year-old has run the race twice and has been a spectator dozens of times, bringing his wife and their two children to cheer on elite runners all the way to wheelchair runners, said Schneider, attending physician at the Boston Medical Center. emergency department.

When two bombs exploded near the finish line on April 15, 2013, Schneider and his family were watching the race at Brookline. He gathered his family and headed to BMC to help treat patients, but got stuck in traffic. Schneider has covered the last few kilometers.

This year, after years of insistence from his wife, Schneider will try his luck as a medical volunteer. It was a good time to “give back,” he said.

“The Marathon, for me, is a very moving experience; it is an inspiring event. I’m excited and nervous, and can’t wait to be there, ”said Schneider, his voice shaking with emotion. “I think it really symbolizes a little bit of persistence, endurance, hope, optimism, strength.”

As a volunteer, Schneider says he will be inundated with all this energy, a welcome relief after so much grief.

“I can’t wait to say hello to all the runners I can who will come… congratulate them, cheer them on, cheer them on with them and just be grateful that we have this opportunity to run. “


Tonya Alanez can be reached at [email protected] or 617-929-1579. Follow her on Twitter @talanez.



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