Almost everyone dreams about being the hero in an emergency, being the right person, in the right place, at the right time, with the right equipment. But what is the right equipment? There are thousands of first aid products on the market these days, whether individual items or sold in kits. How many of those products are actually useful and which products will in reality mean the difference between life and death. Let’s face it; putting a ban- aid on someone isn’t saving their life. While they might appreciate it, it’s not the same as keeping that gunshot victim from bleeding out.
The true measures of saving a life follow the ABCs; Airway, Breathing, Circulation. These basics are the fundamentals of staying alive; if you take away one then you will be having a bad day. Depending on which medical study you are reading, the order of which these are prioritized may vary, but typically it is Airway then Breathing, then Circulation, or Circulation then Airway, then Breathing. What this means is what you will focus on fixing first. Sure there are other emergent situations out there such as Heart Attacks and Strokes, but these are interventional emergencies which require a certain procedures at the hospital to fix. The emergencies where you can stand out the most are traumatic emergencies such as gunshots wounds, blast injuries, or industrial accidents. These are time dependent emergencies, using the right tools and having the proper knowledge can buy these people enough time to get the end all care they need at the hospital.
With that in mind, let’s talk about what some of those tools are. Recently I got the pleasure to check out a great kit from North American Rescue. It is the BLS Eagle IFAK. It is the perfect kit for throwing in your range bag for accident discharges, any tactical environment that can cause a penetrating injury or if you just happen to be around when your neighbor has an accident with a chainsaw. It is relatively small pouch (8”x 4”x 3”), designed to attach to a vest rig, duty belt, or fit in your glove box of your car. It is made of durable Nylon. It comes in a variety of colors, Black, Coyote, Multicam, and OD Green. The pouch has a double zipper that runs the length of the pouch to allow for maximum opening and easy access. Inside the pouch is a removable more rigid plate with an adjustable shock cord that keeps everything secured. The pouch also features a quick deploy method, sticking out of the top is a single red nylon strap that is attached to the inside plate, when pulled it detaches from its Velcro seat, unzips the pouch and allows you to have quick access to all your materials in 1 quick movement. The pouch has both MOLLE/PALS attachment capabilities. It can be placed on up to a 2.5” belt and can be seated either high or low on the belt for comfort.
Inside the pouch: The pouch contains the essentials for self-aid or aid of a buddy due to penetrating or blast injury and to control bleeding. Included is a pair of gloves and trauma shears. The gloves are non-latex nitrile and come in large. The trauma sheers are very solid as trauma sheers go; they feel very solid and will cut any material as person might be wearing.
Next is the C.A.T. tourniquet or Combat Application Tourniquet. This is the best tourniquet on the market. Developed by the military for use in combat zones it is the most effective way to control bleeding in an extremity. The application of the C.A.T. is easy and can be learned by watching a short video on their website. There are also tactical causality training classes available for anyone interested, the most common is the TCCC. They are taught all over the country by well qualified individuals. It is important to know that the decision to use the tourniquet is to be used safe the victim from bleeding to death; i.e. severed femoral artery, amputation of a limb, or any other bleeding of an extremity that can’t be controlled by applying direct pressure.
The next two items can be used together should the injury call for it. The NAR Emergency Trauma Dressing or ETD 4” flat is a resilient elastic wrap, similar to an ACE bandage. The ETD though has a sterile non-adherent pad attached already and a durable securing device attached as well. This can be used to apply a pressure dressing over a laceration. Use it as a sterile bandage to cover a burn. It can even be used as an ACE type bandage to splint a joint that has an injury or sling/swath an arm.
The QuikClot Combat Gauze can be used prior to applying the ETD. It is one of the best Hemostatic Dressings available on the market. It is impregnated with Kaolin, an inorganic mineral that eliminates almost all chances of anyone having an allergy or sensitivity to it. It is in a vacuum packaging and Z folded, designed for easy application to pack an injury. Packing the gauze in a wound along with applying a pressure dressing has been proven by the military and various trauma hospitals around the world to be very effective at bleeding control.
The last item is one my favorites in the pack. I think it might be best tool in the pack for saving a life next to the C.A.T. It is the HyFin Vent Chest Seal Twin Pack. It is designed for gunshot wounds or any other penetrating trauma to the chest. Any time you have a hole in the chest, you run the risk of also having a hole in your lung, when this happens the ambient air enters the wound and collects around the outside of the lung causing the outside pressure to be greater than inside the lung and it will collapse. Obviously if the lung is collapsed it won’t hold oxygen for the body to exchange to the cells and you slowly suffocate. The concept behind HyFin Vent is you place it over the wound and it acts like a 1 way valve, it allows the air to escape from the wound but seals when you breathe in to prevent air from entering the wound. The HyFin Vent is basically a flexible plastic square roughly 5”x5”. It has 3 channels that all start at the center of the dressing and then funnel towards 3 different edges of the dressing. This allows for the air and any blood to escape. The three channels act as a failsafe that allows the dressing to work just as effectively even if 2 of the vents get clogged up. It has superior adhesion that will provide an effective seal even if the victim is hairy, sweaty, or bleeding a lot. The packaging includes 2 dressings so you can place one over the entrance wound and one over the exit wound. The directions are written on the packaging and are just as fail safe as the product is.
With all these tools in the pack, there is only one other thing I would add that doesn’t come with it, and that is a Sharpie or black permanent marker of some kind. You never know when you might have more than 1 patient and need to triage them. It also comes in handy when applying the C.A.T. as it is good to write down the time it was applied and who did it.
Overall this is a well thought out and put together trauma pack. It is designed for deployment in any tactical situation by Law Enforcement, Military, or the civilian who happens to be in the right place, at the right time.
About the Author, I am a full time Paramedic for a busy Metropolitan City in the Great State of Texas. I have been employed there for better part 9 years now. I started my career in Emergency Medicine in 2001, obtained my Paramedic in 2004. During the course of my career in EMS I have trained in multiple fields to include various rescue specialties, Hazardous Materials training, as well as firefighting.
Training video for combat gauze