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Running for a Cause

MED student helped save lives last year, runs for BMC this year

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Last April 15, Kristin Schwarz had nearly finished her shift in Boston Medical Center’s vascular surgery department when her beeper started going off furiously. Two bombs had gone off at the Boston Marathon, injuring more than 260, and people with traumatic injuries were being rushed to BMC’s emergency room. The third year medical student immediately headed there with a resident.

Within 10 hours of the blasts, 28 of the injured were at BMC, 16 requiring surgery. A total of seven limbs had to be amputated from five people. Schwarz (MED’14) scrubbed to assist Jeffrey Kalish, a MED assistant professor of surgery and BMC’s director of endovascular surgery, on several amputations.

“That day was a level of trauma and human suffering that I hadn’t previously been exposed to in my medical training,” says 28-year-old Schwarz. “But to know that all of this happened because of an act of terrorism? It was really shocking and very sad.”

A veteran marathon runner (she has completed five Boston Marathons), Schwarz will join the estimated 40,000 runners competing in Monday’s 118th Boston Marathon. She is part of Team BMC, a group of more than 100 runners hoping to raise $1 million to renovate and expand the hospital’s emergency department. Among the planned work is separating the urgent behavioral health area from the ER, moving the radiology department adjacent to the ER, and constructing a bridge connecting the ER to the hospital’s helipad.

Schwarz aims to raise at least $2,620 ($100 for every mile she runs). At $1,500 to date, she is close. She is also running as a member of the Boston Athletic Association Running Club, a group of 225 runners who train and race together (she wears a BAA charm around her neck).

She had planned to run last April’s Marathon, but despite already having a qualifying time, dropped out just weeks before because of her hectic schedule. Determined to run the Marathon this year, she traveled to South Dakota last fall to run the Sioux Falls Marathon, where she met the qualifying time.

In the days and weeks after last year’s bombings, Schwarz would arrive at the hospital as early as 4:30 a.m. to check on patients. She helped with daily dressing changes, tended to patients, and offered support to their families. Many days, she didn’t leave the hospital until 7 p.m., so exhausted she would arrive home, eat dinner, and collapse into bed.

Schwarz got to know her patients well, she says, because “medical students have more time than anyone else to spend with patients. I’d try to talk to patients about how they were coping and learned how they were trying to rebuild their lives. We’d visit with the family every day.”

The BMC community demonstrated an incredible level of heroism following last year’s bombings, she says, pointing out that the hospital routinely handles more than two-thirds of Boston’s major trauma cases—twice the number of all the city’s other hospitals combined. “The hospital saved many lives and helped many people recover,” she says. “But to be honest, I’ve been training here for the past four years, and every day, BMC provides that exceptional care without exception.”

Schwarz is referring to BMC’s status as New England’s largest safety-net hospital, meaning it cares for low-income and vulnerable patients who otherwise might not have access to care.

Katrina Furey uses words like “selfless” and “compassionate” to describe her friend and classmate. “I can only imagine how difficult it must have been for her—a marathoner herself—to be an assistant in the various amputation surgeries that took place in the days and weeks following the bombings,” says Furey (CAS’09, MED’14). “Kristin reported to work daily—even during that Friday’s lockdown—with a hopeful attitude, huge smile, open heart, and helping hands.”

On Marathon morning, Schwarz will lace up her neon orange Adidas running shoes and strap on a pacing bracelet (her personal record is 3:22). To keep motivated, she has programmed the initials of a friend or family member next to each mile.

“I think Marathon Monday will be bittersweet,” she says. “It will be a day of remembrance, and a day of tribute. But I’m also running to celebrate the resilience of those injured.”

After graduating next month, Schwarz will intern in the Boston Combined Residency Program in Pediatrics, a joint program of Boston Children’s Hospital and Boston Medical Center.

Interested in supporting Kristin Schwarz in her quest to raise funds for BMC? Donate here.

The 118th Boston Marathon is Monday, April 21, beginning at 9 a.m., in Hopkinton, Mass. The prime viewing location is along Beacon Street, from East Campus through Brookline. The first runners should hit that area sometime after 11:30 a.m. Check out this online map to track how the marathon will progress.

2 Comments
Amy Laskowski

Amy Laskowski can be reached at amlaskow@bu.edu.

2 Comments on Running for a Cause

  • Lorna Annis on 04.19.2014 at 3:48 am

    Beth, You should be so proud of your daughter. What an accomplishment!and so much more to offer in her life.

  • BU undergrad on 04.21.2014 at 7:44 pm

    You are an incredible and inspiring person. The world needs more people like you!

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