The nurses who treated Dzhokhar Tsarnaev have told how they could not stop themselves from soothing him with the words: “I am really sorry, hon.”
Medical staff said that just like any other patient they were reflexively affectionate to Dzhokhar Tsarnaev they “did not see as a terrorist”.
Torn by a mixture of emotions, they made a pact to be unemotional around him as they struggled to reconcile their professional obligations with personal disgust.
Interviews with the nurse show how hard it was to treat somebody who has been accused of being behind the bombings that went off during the Boston Marathon last month.
The explosions left three dead and more than 265 injured, some of whom were taken to the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center where 19-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev ended up too after being caught in a shootout with police that killed his brother 26-year-old Tamerlan.
There the nurses found their requirement to treat anybody regardless of their background was tested to the absolute limit.
Speaking to the Boston Globe, seven of the women spoke about caring for him but did not want to give their full names for fear of a backlash from the community.
While moving Dzhokhar Tsarnaev one day a nurse called Irene found herself saying: “I am really sorry, hon.”
She and another nurse called Marie agreed to tell each other if they were using terms of endearment towards him by accident.
Marie said: “You see a hurt 19-year-old and you can’t help but feel sorry for him.”
She added that she would “not be upset if he (Dzhokhar Tsarnaev) got the death penalty”.
Marie said: “There is no way to reconcile the two different feelings.”
The night Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was brought in would have been particularly vexing for Beth Israel as doctors were still looking after 24 bombing victims, some of whom were on the same floor as the suspect.
Victims’ families had to walk past an area with armed guards where the man who allegedly maimed their relatives was being held, just so they could see their loved ones.
Nurse Julie Benbenishty, director of trauma at the hospital, said: “Many of the support staff, the cleaners, and families of other patients will say: <<Why are you giving him pain medication?>>
“They might be angry at us for turning him and washing him and for doing what we are really supposed to do.
“After about a half-hour, I don’t see him as a terrorist anymore.”
As the night went on medics were reminded of their obligations under the Hippocratic Oath, and FBI investigators told them: “You need to keep this person alive. We need information. We need justice.”
A 29-year-old nurse said that when she was unsure if she could treat Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, her husband told her: “You have to do it. You have to do it so we can get answers.”
Michele, 29, a nurse who was one of those who cared for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, said that when she was in the room with him he was “just a patient”.
She said: “You’re here to… make sure they’re feeling better.
“When you step away, you take it in. I am compassionate, that’s what we do. But should I be?
“The rest of the world hates him right now. The emotions are like one big salad, all tossed around.”