Greenport native and EMT shares story of Boston Marathon

by |
07/26/2013 12:00 PM |

COURTESY PHOTO | Megan Tuthill, shown with her husband Robert, was one of 14 people featured on the cover of The Improper Bostonian for her efforts during the Boston Marathon.

Greenport native Megan Tuthill’s picture is on the cover of the latest edition of a Boston monthly magazine. Well, sort of.

A professional emergency medical technician for the City of Boston, Ms. Tuthill was on duty in the medical tent near the Boston Marathon finish line on April 15, helping runners at the end of the 26-mile course with mostly minor complains such as blisters and sprains, when the two pressure cooker bombs went off nearby at 2:49 p.m.

An often fun assignment instantly became anything but. The EMTs went into crisis mode and within 18 minutes provided initial treatment and transported about 80 victims, many with horrendous injuries, to trauma centers across the Boston area. In an instant they went from simple city employees to heroes, showered with praise, thanks and tokens of appreciation, such as Red Sox tickets.

One of the more conspicuous examples of their celebrity status was appearing on the cover of The Improper Bostonian, a glossy lifestyle magazine, for its “Boston’s best” issue. The accompanying story includes a link to the magazine’s website, where Ms. Tuthill and others describe that day in their own words.

When viewed at a newsstand, the cover photo shows only half the 14 men and women who share their stories of that day. The rest, including Ms. Tuthill, are on the foldout’s inside flap.

And that’s OK with her.

“I’m fine behind the scenes, which is why I never went into acting or anything like that,” said Ms. Tuthill, a Greenport High School graduate and a Suffolk Times student athlete of the year for 1988-89. “It helps that it’s on the inside cover and it seems to be mostly people at work who noticed, not the general public.

“I was asked to do it and it was more to represent my co-workers,” she said. “I honestly feel that the Emergency Medical Service is left behind sometimes. But we’re always involved in things that the fire department and police are involved in.”

Her marathon day experience, she said, “was different, but not life-changing.”

Ms. Tuthill, 42, has been a city EMT in Boston for 17 years and is currently assigned to an ambulance center in the Roxbury neighborhood. Her marathon day shift started at 9 a.m., but she didn’t get home to her husband, Robert, also a city EMT, and two sons, ages 5 and 10, until after 11 that night. Her husband didn’t work the day of the marathon.

“You’re on high alert all day and uncertain all day,” she said. “We’re trained that there’s not just one explosion, there’s always more and you have to keep looking around. You feel like it will never be over, but it feels good to get home.”

She was aware of the role she played, but still didn’t have the big picture. “I hadn’t seen any of the coverage so I had to sit down and watch the news,” Ms. Tuthill said.

Falling asleep that night proved not to be a problem and, in what turned out to be fortuitous scheduling, she had the next day off.

The passage of time has not given her pause to reassess her role in a historic event.

“I don’t think it was that difficult for the Boston EMS because we train for many scenarios, including mass casualties,” Ms. Tuthill said. “It was like a drill for us with real people.”

Knowing what to do and where to go came as second nature, she said. “This is what we were trained to do.”

She jumped into an ambulance to take a double amputee to Boston Medical Center, one of the area’s four trauma centers. She then returned to the tent to take two other victims to a different hospital.

“The most important thing is they need to go to an OR,” said Ms. Tuthill. “We have to get them out fast.”

The EMTs were offered counseling after the bombings and were told that they could be hit with post-traumatic stress syndrome later on.

Ms. Tuthill continues to say that the bombing injuries, while horrific, fall within her job description.

“I’ve seen a lot of this before,” she said. “Just not all at once.”

And while the next race is nine months off, she and her fellow EMTs are already being asked if they’ll return to the ’14 marathon. It’s not hard to guess Ms. Tuthill’s reply.

“Why wouldn’t we?” she said. “It’s a fun day to work. I’m there to encourage the runners, many who do it to raise money for charity or awareness for a cause. I would never do it. Running at 5 a.m. through a snowstorm? I’ll pass.”

She plans to work as an EMT as long as she’s able.

“I still love it,” she said. “I just hope my body will let me keep doing it for a while. It’s strenuous and physically demanding. You’re constantly lifting people and carrying people down stairs. Society has definitely not gotten skinnier, I can tell you that.”

As for the threat of future terrorist attacks, she said, “Every day there’s a chance of something happening, but you can’t live like that. Life is too short and you have to enjoy every moment.”

She’s adamant in asserting that she’s not just putting a happy face on tragedy.

“People say your life must have changed. It hasn’t,” Ms. Tuthill said. “I still get up and go to work each day. I wake up and don’t have to worry about how to put on a new leg. I always see someone who’s having a worse day that me. The little things in life make you happy. Me and my colleagues always joke and say, ‘This is the best day ever.’ ”

[email protected]