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In aftermath of marathon bombings, two men turn tragedy into triumph

Massachusetts State Trooper Chris Dumont, CJ'00, in suit and tie, helped to save the life of Transit Officer Richard Donohue on April 19, 2013, when he was gravely injured during a shootout with the Boston Marathon bombers in Watertown, Massachusetts. Photo by Adam Glanzman/Northeastern University

 After working a security detail for President Barack Obama, Massachusetts State Trooper Chris Dumont arrived in Watertown in search of a black Mercedes SUV and the two carjacking suspects who had reportedly stolen the vehicle. 

It was the wee hours of April 19, 2013—and things were about to get chaotic. As was later discovered, the two suspects were Boston Marathon bombers Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. 

A shootout ensued. 

Tamerlan was killed, Dzhokhar fled, and Richard Donohue, a transit officer with the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, was shot in the right thigh and began bleeding profusely.

One officer administered first aid, another applied pressure to his wound. Dumont, a certified paramedic and homicide investigator for the Bristol County District Attorney’s Office, grabbed his medical bag from his cruiser. “By the time I arrived at Richard’s location,” says Dumont, CJ’00, “his heart had already stopped and I became focused on transporting him to the hospital.”

Donohue lost 90 percent of his blood—but he survived. He required more than 40 blood products, including red cells, platelets, and plasma, and emerged from a two-day coma after undergoing surgery at Mount Auburn Hospital in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

He doesn’t remember what happened, but he’s thankful to be alive. He says, “some of the people who saved my life are those who donated blood.”

Both men received the 2014 Trooper George L. Hanna Memorial Award for Bravery—and Dumont was named the American Association of State Trooper’s 2014 National Trooper of the Year. “It’s obviously a great honor,” he says, “but we felt like we were doing what we were trained to do.”

‘You never know when you’re going to need blood’

Since 2013, Dumont and Donohue have continued to go beyond the call of duty. For the past five years, they’ve partnered with the American Red Cross to tell their story to audiences nationwide while helping to organize blood drives in conjunction with their talks. Among the attendees? Police recruits and politicians, trauma surgeons and first responders, nurses and law enforcement commanders.

Their next lecture—“Officer Down: Lessons Learned from a Critical Injury and Recovery”—was scheduled to take place on Tuesday night at Northeastern. But the event was postponed due to snow and will be rescheduled soon. A Red Cross blood drive—to be held in the Curry Student Center Ballroom on Wednesday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.—will proceed as planned. 

According to the Brookhaven National Laboratory, 4.5 million Americans would die each year without a blood transfusion. For Dumont and Donohue, that’s a sobering statistic. “The point we make in our talk,” says Dumont, “is that you never know when you’re going to need blood.”

Photo by Adam Glanzman/Northeastern University

 Since that fateful night in April 2013, Dumont has become a regular blood donor. He’s also begun instructing public safety professionals in emergency medical care, with a focus on new methods of preventing extreme blood loss. He says all Massachusetts state troopers are now equipped with tourniquets. “Anything that limits blood loss, limits the amount of blood products needed. The two work hand-in-hand.”

Donohue is alive due in large part to the generosity of blood donors. In fact, the No. 1 reason donors say they give blood is because they “want to help others.” As he told CBS Boston, “I am a living breathing example of anonymous donors coming out, giving blood, putting me back together.”

After a lengthy recovery, Donohue returned to work in 2015 and was immediately promoted to sergeant. But he was “in pain all the time,” and decided to retire in 2016. “A few years ago, things leveled off, but I’m still left with a lot of pain and issues with my leg.” Now he’s giving back, working as a doctoral student and teaching fellow at the University of Massachusetts Lowell while volunteering with the American Red Cross to promote the importance of life-saving blood donations. “You think life is going one way—you’re trying to get on this squad or get this assignment and work through the ranks for 20 years—and the next thing you know everything is turned upside down and you have to figure out where to go from there.”

‘Have a positive mindset’

Donohue’s talk at Northeastern will focus on strategies for building resilience and overcoming adversity. As a Massachusetts native and passionate Boston sports fan, he’ll reference the New England Patriots’ unprecedented comeback in Super Bowl LI. “Be active and don’t let things happen to you,” he advises. “Have a positive mindset and build a support network of people who will help you overcome whatever challenge you’re faced with.”

Dumont will reflect on the impact of his Northeastern education on his career in law enforcement. As an undergraduate in the university’s criminal justice program, he did co-op for the Nantucket Police Department, the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office, and the U.S. Bureau of Customs and Border Protection. “As a homicide investigator, I require a lot of communication skills and a lot of report-writing skills, and Northeastern definitely prepared me for that.”

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