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WBUR Oral History Project: Dr. David Crandell

Dr. David Crandell

Interviewed by: Jayne Guberman

Date: February 2, 2014

Location: Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital (Charlestown, MA)

Recorder: Joanna Shea O'Brien

Photo:  Dr. David Crandell (Photo provided by Dr. David Crandell)




Dr. David Crandell practices physical and rehabilitation medicine at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital. He grew up on the North Shore of Long Island and came to Boston for his medical residency. With a long-standing interest in sports going back to childhood, he did a fellowship in sports medicine as part of his training. He later served as physician for the US disabled track and field team in 1994 and 1998, and he has continued his extracurricular activities working with disabled athletes over the past twenty years.

In the late 1990s, Dr. Crandell took up the sport of sled hockey, and he has been instrumental in establishing it as a competitive sport nationally and internationally. In his interview, Dr. Crandell reflects on the powerful role of such sports in helping people recovery from disability. “For someone who had a traumatic injury, “ he says, “getting back on the ice is becoming whole.”

As Medical Director of the Amputee Rehabilitation Program at Spaulding, Dr. Crandell describes the stages of recovery for amputee patients, from immediate post-operative care to training for re-entry to the community. He discusses changes over the past twenty years in both the perception and the practice of rehabilitation medicine. He also reflects on the impact of changes in health care, as well as the economics of insurance coverage, on the length of hospital stays and patient care. One positive development, he says, resulted from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan: the increasing availability of advanced prosthetic limbs for civilians as well as veterans.

Dr. Crandell describes running two Boston Marathons in recent years, a decision he made as he was turning fifty. Marathon Day in 2013, however, was a regular workday for him. Learning that something had happened at the finish line while conducting a clinic in Dedham. David watched the unfolding events on television. Learning more about the nature of the bombs, he realized many survivors would be in need of his services at Spaulding.

Preparations were made at Spaulding over the next several days, including an unusual level of collaboration with area trauma hospitals. The Spaulding staff realized they were facing an unprecedented situation – admitting large numbers of amputees all at once – and had to position themselves to deliver the needed care. Eight patients arrived at the “old” Nashua Street facility within days of the bombings, followed by another twenty-five at the new Charlestown facility shortly thereafter. They ranged in age from seven to seventy-one, and each required a unique treatment plan.

Dr. Crandell describes the types of injuries and some of the unique issues staff confronted. Because many of the marathon survivors were standing – and were injured – standing alongside family and friends, Dr. Crandell found himself caring for a mother and daughter, two brothers, and a husband and wife. All of the marathon survivors were cared for on the fifth floor of Spaulding Rehabilitation. It was here on the fifth floor that many came to feel part of a community of survivors. Along with the positive impact that came from the outpouring of cards, letters, and gifts from strangers, many of the survivors were visited by veterans and mentors, as well as a from congresswoman, Gabrielle Gifford.

Dr. Crandell discusses the process of care, including the different challenges for above and below the knee amputees. With three to five year warranties on most prosthetic limbs, he notes the daunting costs that survivors will face over a lifetime. Reflecting on the importance of attitude and goals, he notes, “Having an amputation shapes you, but it doesn’t define you. How you respond is what defines outcome.” His goal is to allow people to deal with the change and feel supported. For him, “Boston Strong” is doing his rounds the gym and watching people succeed: seeing patients take their first steps, watching someone dance with their parent, seeing a patient skip down the hall.


Audio Clip 1

Dr. Crandell describes the transformative effect of getting into sports for people with traumatic injuries.

Audio Clip 2

Dr. Crandell discusses advancements in prosthetic limbs that resulted from new technologies developed for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans with traumatic injuries.

Audio Clip 3

Dr. Crandell describes deciding to run a marathon again when he turned fifty and how he will run as a guide for a blind runner in the 2014 Boston Marathon.

Audio Clip 4

Dr. Crandell discusses the impact of celebrity visitors, as well as peer mentors such as Gabrielle Giffords, on survivors' recovery.

Audio Clip 5

Dr. Crandell reflects on the transformative impact of becoming an amputee.

Audio Clip 6

Dr. Crandell describes what "Boston Strong" means to him.

Full Interview

Related Links

WBUR Oral History Project: Stories from the Spaulding Rehabilitation Network

Maureen Banks (COO of Spaulding Rehabilitation Network, First Time Marathoner)

Dara Casparian and Samantha Conley (Physical Therapist and Occupational Therapist at Spaulding Rehabilitation Network, Provided Rehabilitation Care to Survivors)

Suzette Chiong-Oglesby (Clinical Nurse Manager, Spaulding Rehabilitation Network, Mother of Marathon Runner, Marathon Spectator, Witness to Bombings, Treated Survivors)

Dr. Leslie Morse (Spaulding Physician, BAA Marathon Medical Tent Volunteer, First Responder)

David Storto (President of Spaulding Rehabilitation Network, Marathoner)

Timothy Sullivan (Director of Communications, Spaulding Rehabilitation Network)



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