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Post Marathon, Lasell Athletic Trainers Stay Strong

Lasell Faculty and Students Recover and Move Forward

It was one of those gorgeous, bright April mornings when a group of five Athletic Training (AT) students, brimming with excitement, walked with faculty member Dominique Mathieu to the Riverside T station, headed toward Boston.

A tradition for AT majors around the country, Lasell students would volunteer at the Boston Marathon - learning from professionals, helping injured or exhausted athletes as they cross the finish line, soaking it all in.

By the time the day was over, they, and the nation, would struggle with a dramatically different experience.

The bombings on April 15, 2013 at the Boston Marathon finish line permanently marked each student and faculty member present that day.

"The explosion reverberated in the [medical] tent, the normal buzz of voices calmed into a whisper. Every medical professional stopped to watch the live TV feed from the finish line," remembered Mathieu, a Lasell Athletic Training (AT) professor. "My thoughts were confirmed: two bombs had detonated near my loved ones, colleagues and my students."

AT student volunteers typically serve on sweep teams stationed at or near the Marathon finish line to assist runners in distress. Their job: to wheelchair the exhausted to Medical Tent A for evaluation and further medical care.

That was the norm for the first few hours of the race until 2:50 pm, when the first bomb exploded.

Each of Lasell's five students (who asked not to be named in this article) served on sweep teams either at the finish line or in Medical Tent A. Lasell AT faculty member Christopher Troyanos, who also serves as Boston Athletic Association Medical Coordinator for the marathon, was on hand in Medical Tent A -steps from the finish line. Mathieu's assignment that day had changed to Medical Tent B, a few yards away.

With cellular service down after the initial bombing, Mathieu was anxious to determine her students' whereabouts and that they were safe. Meanwhile, the students were caught either running towards the finish line to help or being pushed back by law enforcement personnel as officials worked to secure the area and help victims. Troyanos - so close to the bombing site - had rushed to the scene to help save lives.

Mathieu was able to contact one student via cell phone before the communication system crashed. Her message to the students: Look for each other, and meet at Tent B.

All but one of the five were accounted for within minutes, the fifth -- as it turned out -- was safe but had jumped into the rescue scene at the finish line to remove debris from victims and assist medical professionals in Tent A.

Later, with all students accounted for and rumors of additional bombs, Mathieu moved the students from the area and returned to campus. There, Lasell faculty and staff ensured the students received support to help process the trauma they'd just experienced.

"I think we all felt the initial pain of the Marathon [bombing] and sought out a ‘treatment plan' that was best for each of us. The healing continues and will for quite some time," Mathieu tells Leaves.

In a therapeutic essay a few weeks later, one student wrote "The worst injury I had seen in my whole life was a broken arm. How was I supposed to help victims of a bombing?"

Others returned to classes, but sat near the door.

Time has helped them heal, and the group has bonded over the experience -- with two obtaining matching tattoos to honor the victims and all five traveling together to be recognized at the National Athletic Trainers Association (NATA) conference over the summer.

One thing is for sure, the events of Boston Marathon 2013 strengthened their resolve to be a part of the athletic training field and serve in the community.

"Many of us will take the opportunity in 2014 to return to the marathon we all love and remember, before the bombing," says Mathieu.

Note: Faculty member Chris Troyanos was not able to participate in this story due to the ongoing legal issues surrounding the Marathon bombing. He was recognized for his service during the Boston Marathon 2013 by the BAA, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick and the NATA at its national conference.

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