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'My bag has saved 25 lives'

By Griff Palmer

April 20, 1995

Wednesday's bombing proved Dr. Bob Bomengen's point better than any lecture he could have given.

"I always carry my tools. I carry my bag with me wherever I go.

That's what I'm telling the kids," said the Lakeview, Ore., physician. The American Academy of Family Physicians named Bomengen America's Family Physician of 1992.

He was preparing to lecture medical students 1 at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center when the bomb exploded Wednesday.

"I never made it to the lecture," he said.

Bomengen's bag was ready when disaster struck.

He said the bag contained morphine to ease victims' pain and a complement of other key drugs.

In an era of highly specialized medicine, many physicians question why a family doctor should carry such a heavily stocked kit, Bomengen said.

In the course of his career, Bomengen said, "My bag has saved 25 lives, hands down. If I hadn't had it, they wouldn't be alive. " Working nearby with Bomengen was Dr. David Hogan, an osteopath on the emergency medical staff at University Hospital.

Wednesday was not Hogan's first encounter with the grim aftermath of a disaster.

He said he worked the scene of the Luby's restaurant massacre in Killeen, Texas, in 1991, while he was an emergency physician in that city. A psychopathic gunman killed 22 people.

Numerous victims came to St. Anthony Hospital, which is just a few blocks from the Murrah Building.

Dr. Donald Brown said once it became apparent that enough personnel were on hand to take care of the hospital's emergency load, Dr. Jack Migliaccio organized a team to go to the scene.

"There were social workers; there was a priest in the ambulance.

It was amazing," Brown said. "At the hospital, we have disaster drills and disaster plans. It just went off beautifully. "

Brown said physicians from throughout the city quickly converged on the disaster scene.

"The first hour was a big flurry, and then, really, nothing.

We've seen only one person in the last hour," Brown said at 3:30 p.m.

Hogan said the pattern of activity Wednesday was typical of such disasters.

"This is going to take days," he said. "It will probably be 48 hours before medical crews, as far as search and rescue, stand down. "

Hogan said blast victims determined to be dead would probably be left in the building for some time while investigators reconstruct events surrounding the blast.

"They'll reconstruct it bolt by bolt, rock by rock, until they determine exactly what happened," he said.

Hogan said the National Disaster Medical Service, part of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, had dispatched its Oklahoma Disaster Medical 1 Assistance Team from Tulsa.

Hogan praised the execution of hospitals' and agencies' disaster plans, but said he saw evidence that Oklahoma City area agencies need to coordinate a unified disaster plan.

"This points out the need for additional coordination between police, fire and emergency medical personnel," he said.


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