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Trauma surgeon taking care of David Ortiz has saved many lives

Dr. David King (left) and Dr. George Velmahos received badges and plaques from Commissioner William Evans (right) for saving the lives of Boston Police Officers Injured During East Boston Shooting Incident on October 13, 2016.
Dr. David King (left) and Dr. George Velmahos received badges and plaques from Commissioner William Evans (right) for saving the lives of Boston Police Officers Injured During East Boston Shooting Incident on October 13, 2016. (David L Ryan/Globe Staff/file)

The trauma surgeon caring for David Ortiz at Mass. General Hospital is an Army veteran who has saved the lives of Boston Marathon bombing victims, police officers who’ve been shot on the job, and soldiers wounded in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan.

After treating so many heroes injured on Boston streets and distant battlefields, Dr. David R. King now finds himself caring for a local sports hero who is revered as a baseball legend both here and abroad in his native Dominican Republic.

King operated on Ortiz on Monday, after the retired Red Sox slugger was flown to MGH suffering from a gunshot wound that he received at a bar Sunday in Santo Domingo.

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In a statement released Wednesday, Tiffany Ortiz, David’s wife, said Ortiz was recuperating under the direction of King and is “making good progress toward recovery.”

She issued another statement Thursday, thanking doctors and staff at the Abel González Clinic in the Dominican Republic, for the “amazing care” they provided for her husband before he was flown to Boston.

As a surgeon with military combat experience, King has seen all kinds of traumatic injuries.

King decided to join the Army after he finished his surgical training in 2000. The next year, following the attacks on the World Trade Center, he began serving two tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, treating “hundreds and hundreds” of wounded soldiers, according to a profile piece published on Massachusetts General Hospital’s website.

“I feel honored and humbled to be the first surgeon to lay hands on soldiers who are bleeding to death and to try to make a difference,” King said in the article.

King said his Army experience has influenced his work as a trauma surgeon.

“I’m applying the lessons I’ve learned on the battlefield to the home front,” he said.

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In April 2013, King ran the Boston Marathon and finished the race in just over 3 hours. He was on his way home when he started getting text messages from people asking if he was OK, and something about an explosion. Unsure of what happened, King asked his wife to drive him to the hospital. When he walked into the emergency department, he immediately knew.

“I’d seen identical things before,’’ King said in a 2015 Globe interview, recalling the IED wounds that he’d seen in the Army. “I knew in an instant from the injury pattern. As soon as I saw the first patient, I knew the whole story, back to front.’’

King worked through the night and into the next day operating on victims injured by the bombs that went off at the Boston Marathon finish line.

In November 2016, King and the MGH trauma team received a commendation from the Boston Police Commissioner for saving the lives of two Boston officers who were shot in East Boston. King was previously honored by the Somerville Police Department for his role in treating a Somerville detective who was shot in the chest and abdomen in 2010, the Globe reported.


Emily Sweeney can be reached at esweeney@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @emilysweeney.