For centuries, tourniquets have played a role on the battlefield, helping keep wounded soldiers from bleeding to death.
Now, recent attacks on civilians have police departments investing in them, too. Their success during the Boston Marathon bombing captured the attention of law enforcement agencies nationwide.
Video captured off-duty firefighter Matt Patterson grabbing a belt from a stranger and using it to make a tourniquet for Jane Richard, 7, who lost a leg in the blast.
“Without a doubt, tourniquets were a difference maker and saved lives,” said Joseph Blansfield, NP, Boston Medical Center.
In Saginaw last month, a tourniquet proved vital again.
Arlington police officer Charles Lodatto was shot in the groin trying to serve a warrant for the murder of 6-year-old Alanna Gallagher.
“They applied a tourniquet to his wound and frankly that probably saved his life,” said Dr. William Witham, of Texas Health Harris Methodist.
In Dallas, Senior Corporal Jason Chapman and Officer Omar Figueroa used a tourniquet designed by military officers to help a man hurt in a car crash.
“His leg – it appeared to us – was almost completely amputated,” said Officer Figueroa.
Figueroa bought the kit with his own money, after taking medical training.
“I compare it to turning off a faucet. That’s how much blood the person was bleeding. Once I tightened it up, it just completely stopped,” explained Figueroa.
Without it, paramedics told the officers the victim easily could have bled to death.
“The first paramedics just kept saying, ‘Thank you, thank you, thank you,’” said Cpl. Chapman.
Both officers recently received a life-saving award from Dallas Police Chief David Brown, whose taken notice of the technology.
“We want to supply every field officer, every uniformed officer in the field with this type of medical treatment,” said Chief Brown. “This can really be something that will save lives in Dallas.”
Dr. Alex Eastman, a trauma surgeon and Dallas Police lieutenant, says the tool is so easy anyone can learn to use it in minutes. Tourniquets, though, carry a history of controversy, which may explain why their use was limited until now.
The American Red Cross still lists them on its website as a common first aid mistake.
“Tourniquets stop the flow of blood, which could cause permanent damage to a limb. They should be used only as a last resort in the case of severe bleeding,” says the site.
“The controversy stems from tourniquet use in, sort of, wars of yester-year,” said Dr. Eastman. “What happened was people put tourniquets on and then waited 24 – 48 hours… They associated that with limb loss, but it wasn’t the tourniquet but the delay in reaching medical care.”
Brandon Smith, spokesperson for Tactical Medical Solutions, which sells professional tourniquets, says police departments have generally expressed concern with liability and cost. Success stories, though, have helped eased those concerns, and interest since the Boston Marathon, though, has noticeably increased.
Among the company’s customers, they list police departments for Dallas, Irving, Southlake, Watauga, Duncanville, Farmers Branch, Garland, Plano and Weatherford.
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