NBC News   |  April 16, 2013

Boston hospitals assess bombing victims' injuries

NBC News' Brian Williams speaks to Lester Holt in Boston about the types of injuries for Boston Marathon bombing victims according to Drs. Peter Fagenholz of Massachusetts General Hospital and Ron Walls of Brigham and Women's Hospital.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> were silver linings to what happened today in boston , two things. number one, it happened just about at the medical tent so there were many medical professionals standing by. they thought they were going to be treated cases of dehydration and exhaustion. instead they were doing triage of the wounded. number two, there are so many first class hospitals in boston , the kinds of hospitals people travel from all over the country to seek treatment at and today, unfortunately, they became triage centers, as well. lester holt is outside mass general tonight where they just had a briefing inside. lester, good evening.

>> brian, good evening. mass casualties are what hospitals like this prepare for and that's what they saw. i attended that briefing. a trauma surgeon describing the first 15 minutes this afternoon when the doors opened, three very badly injured people came in. they knew what to expect before the evening was over. 29 injured had been received here at massachusetts general. described the injuries, typically a lot of lower extremity issues. bones, tissue damage, shrapnel damage. shrapnel that he said came from metal pieces, not able to identify whether these might be particles purposely placed in the explosive or just surrounding debris. nonetheless, he said there were a number of amputations that were required here. as i said, six hospitals received the injured. all describing similar injuries of lower extremity damages to the victims. dr. peter frangiholtz explained the personal toll this has taken on those who have treated the injured.

>> it's just depressing that, you know, we take care of accidents all the time and just depressing that people are pretty brave and it's a terrible thing and they -- most patient's attitude is do what you have to do and try to make me better.

>> i asked him if these are injuries to typically see in a combat setting. he noted that one of the physicians on staff here worked in the military in afghanistan and iraq, and had the most experience with these kinds of injuries. there was a question as to whether all of those here have been identified. they couldn't tell us that but we know of 29, 8 are in critical condition and very long night and in to the day here at massachusetts general and the five other hospitals treating injured from this incident.

>> thank you very much. lester mentioned the five other hospitals. one of them and again one of the best in the nation, brigam and women's hospital where dr. ron walls is chief of emergency services , he was with us earlier this evening for "nbc nightly news." doctor, thank you very much after a long day for agreeing to be with us again tonight. can you describe the range of types of injuries among the patients that were sorted out and brought to your facility?

>> well, the injuries we saw today were typical blast-type injuries of the type just described. they were predominantly lower extremity injuries, a lot of damage to the soft tissue , the muscle and a lot of bony injury. we had a few more serious injuries including a head injury and injuries to the face and neck but most of the injuries lower extremity , basically leg injury.

>> your colleague at mass general mentioned that he had a fellow fogs who did tours overseas. we have been at war for a decade and i imagine some of the staff members of brigam and women's are also combat veterans themselves. did anyone mention that this kind of traumatic injury , you had amputations and shrapnel, a kind of thing we have seen in war zones.

>> nobody specifically mentioned it here, but i think it's important to know that this is what we do. this is what we train to do. this is what we do every day. we don't do it on this scale. and we don't necessarily see this exact type of injury. but this is what we do and our teams pulled together and responded to these multiple casualties in the same way as we pull smaller numbers of teams together for smaller numbers of casualties. it was a very impressive scene to see all of the providers working together so well to take care of so many really, really badly injured patients coming in one after another.

>> well, this kind of thing has to happen in an american city, boston as we said sure is home to more than one world class hospital. among them brigam and women's. dr. ron walls, chief of emergency services , after a long and awful day in boston , thank you for being