A radiologist running the Boston Marathon with his daughter, a pediatrician, were among the first health care providers on the scene after bombs exploded at the finish line of the race.
According to the Boston Globe and the L.A. Times, Joe Stavas, M.D., a professor of Radiology and Vascular Interventional Radiology at the University of North Carolina (UNC) School of Medicine, was close to the finish line when the bombs exploded.
Dr. Stavas, 58, had run several marathons with his daughter, Natalie Stavas, M.D. While his 32-year-old daughter talked her way past police to help perform CPR on and staunch the blood of the wounded, Dr. Stavas turned his attention to fellow runners who had been stopped on Hereford Street, far from the warming blankets, water and medical tents prepared for them at the finish line.
At the end of a marathon, bodies wet with sweat pose a serious hypothermia risk, and Dr. Stavas quickly notices that this was happening to several of the runners around him. According to the Boston Globe, he found an elderly runner who was ashen, lacked much of a pulse, and had passed out. “She was white as a sheet,” he told the newspaper. “I knew it was hypothermia.”
With ambulances and emergency responders rushing to care for the wounded at the blast site, Dr. Stavas realized that hypothermia victims among the runners on Herefords Street could not expect rapid help and needed to be treated with whatever was available on site. He got spectators to help bundle the woman in donated clothing and blankets. Then they carried her to a restaurant to warm her.
According to the newspaper, over the next hour, he helped at least a half dozen other freezing runners seek shelter in nearby townhouses and even gave up his own hat, jacket and daughter’s gloves to a woman he found crying so hard she couldn’t speak. “I saw goose bumps on her face, which is rare,” he told the Boston Globe's reporter.
Because hypothermia causes slow and confused thinking, victims are often unable to recognize that they are in danger and take action. The fact that Dr. Stavas stayed observant in the midst of the emergency and helped direct bystanders in how to help runners suffering from hypothermia may have saved lives and certainly prevented more emergency situations for the first responders helping the wounded.
However, his real praise was for his daughter, who despite having just finished a marathon with a foot injury, sprinted ahead to help the wounded.
"She was like an Olympic runner — I couldn't keep up with her," he told the L.A. Times.