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Dr. Karson Mui changed by Boston Marathon experience

Dr. Karson Mui at the Boston Marathon, before the bombings.
Dr. Karson Mui standing in front of Boston Marathon sign

“You really don’t know what you’re capable of until you’re forced into a situation,” says Karson Mui, D.C., CCSP, a 2008 graduate of Palmer’s Florida Campus. “Never be complacent!” For Dr. Mui, that statement materialized on Monday, April 15, 2013, the day of the Boston Marathon bombings.

“I was excited because this year I was in the main medical tent (for the marathon),” he says. “Previously I had done athlete rehab, which is mostly musculoskeletal work. I’m a sports medicine doc. I wanted to be in the middle of everything where I could do the most good.”

As the marathon approached the four-hour mark, Dr. Mui was doing triage, helping runners with blisters and muscle cramps. With the temperature in the 60s, there weren’t many heat-related issues. “There was nothing that serious; frankly it was pretty slow,” he remembers.

“It was right at the four-hour mark that the bombs went off,” Dr. Mui says. “At that time the area was packed with people. I was located about 100 yards from the explosion. You could actually feel the shock wave come down Boylston Street. About 20 seconds later the second bomb went off and when I ran outside of the tent I saw the smoke and everything. The smell that came afterward was unbelievable. You could smell sulfur floating down the street.” Mui ran back into the medical tent and told the team that a bomb had just gone off and they needed to get ready.

When the call came out for all first responders to be in position and all nurses outside, Dr. Mui ran outside again. “I just remember jumping in … I didn’t really think about my own safety,” he says. “People outside needed me and I just ran into it. I think they evacuated 97 people within 27 minutes from the main bomb site into the main medical tent.”

“There was blood all over the place, all over my gloves, all over the floor,” he says. “We were using Bacitracin and three-inch gauze pads to squeeze into the wounds. The level 1 trauma cases were people who had their legs or feet blown off. They were being taken to the back of the tent and had to go right past me.”

Now six months later, Dr. Mui reflects on the experience. “The worst part is the coping process afterward,” he says. “I didn’t know how to handle it. I literally cried myself to sleep that night and went to work the next day feeling very angry.” Dr. Mui operates Mui Chiropractic and Sports Medicine in Newton, Mass.

“I certainly don’t consider myself a hero or what I did heroic,” he reflects. “My educational experience at Palmer was one of the things that helped me through that day. I was prepared. In college I studied my butt off. It really gave me a good base and instilled in me that if I continued to work hard I could be an amazing health care provider.

“It changed me as a human being, changed my core,” he adds. “I definitely experienced PTSD. I sought professional counseling, which has been invaluable. An experience like this changes your perspective on what’s really important in life. What it reinforced in me is how important your support network is. Chiropractors can sometimes feel isolated. Certainly the network I’ve developed as the founder of the New England Sports Medicine Council has helped immensely. The outpouring of support from the community and my colleagues is much appreciated. If it weren’t for them, my patients and my family, I might still be in a corner somewhere crying.

“The thing that keeps me going is I know I helped people,” he adds. “I really know I helped, although you always wish you could have done more. With a lot of help and support, I’m starting to see this experience has made me stronger as a doctor. I know that because of my skill set I was able to help some of the victims of the Boston Marathon bombings.”

When asked if he’ll participate in next year’s Boston Marathon, Dr. Mui says, “I’m there, 100 percent. I need that closure.”

Dr. Mui was presented with the Distinguished Service Award by the American Chiropractic Association Council on Sports Injuries and Physical Fitness during its recent New Jersey symposium.

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