You’ve been shot??? I can help with that!
A while back I was at a tactical shooting event with some friends. The shoot was incredible and well hosted, featuring all sorts of scenarios where zombies are trying to kill you before you shoot them Needless to say, we had a blast. One of the gentlemen there was offering some informal but insightful tactical medical training. A concept was presented that was sobering. We were asked if we carried a firearm. Of course there were a lot of “ayes.” Then we were asked if we were prepared to shoot someone if our lives depended on it. Another round of “ayes.” “Are you prepared to BE shot?” I hadn’t really thought about that part of it. If I have to shoot at someone, there’s a good chance I might be shot at. None of us should have the illusion that if things go bad, our shots will always hit their mark and the bad guy’s will always miss. Needless to say, he had our attention. Now it was time to learn what to do if we encounter one of those nasty penetrating wounds in a human body. A penetrating wound is one of the more serious traumas to the body, and one that must be handled quickly. Internal damage and bleeding can become fatal very fast. A lot of basic first aid training we’ve received at our job or from the Red Cross is inadequate for these injuries. Our basic “Band-Aids and Aspirin” first aid kits start looking a little too basic. We need to have better knowledge and equipment to render aid.
Before we go any further, I want to point out that I’m not a medical professional. In fact, I’m not even that officially trained and I’ve never had to aid to someone with a serious penetrating wound. It is up to you to get proper training and instruction before employing any of the equipment I’m going to discuss. The concepts are simple, but they really are life and death. I also need to point out that short of dealing with a gunshot in a properly equipped operating room with a surgeon on standby, this is exactly what the name implies… FIRST aid. Your goal is to provide lifesaving treatment until someone with a lot more experience and better equipment can take over. You might save a life, but you won’t make that person well.
Any serious wound that is bleeding is something that needs immediate attention. The products we’ll be looking at deal almost exclusively with getting an uncontrolled bleed under control.
The first is the pressure bandage. We’ve all learned that when bleeding won’t stop, bandage it and apply pressure. There are a lot of options on the market today for bandages that will apply the pressure for us now. One of the most popular is the Israeli Bandage, commonly known as the Izzy. Its been around for a while and is very effective. You can see it in action here. My complaints with the Izzy are that its hard to use with one hand and it can unroll while you are trying to wrap. I’m not knocking them, I just think there is a better option available for the same price range. I personally carry the OLAES bandage system from Tactical Medical Solutions. It has velcro retainers to keep the bandage under control and maintain pressure as you wrap. Check out the instructional video here. It doesn’t require a fancy device to change directions on the wrap to maintain pressure. Also, packed inside is a LOT of gauze and an occlusive layer for chest wounds. Overall, I think the OLAES offers better value and better capability.
Next we move on to clotting agents. These are used to create a very rapid clotting effect when regular means don’t work. There are several offerings available that include both granulated powders and gauze impregnated with the clotting agent. My experience is limited, only having used the QuikClot Sport for a hand laceration that wouldn’t stop bleeding. It wasn’t a serious bleed, but one of those over a joint that wouldn’t stay closed up. For more serious first aid, I like the QuikClot Gauze. Having a gauze impregnated with the agent removes the chances of powder spills or being blown by the wind. Celox offers similar products and has a great reputation as well. Either will do well to help stop serious bleeding.
Last but not least, we have the tourniquet. It is by far the oldest technology to slow bleeding and for good reason. By applying pressure to the artery feeding the area that is bleeding, you reduce blood flow. The less blood that flows, the less that can leak out. There are a lot of misconceptions about applying a tourniquet that claim loss of limb or killing off parts of the body, but these are not really an issue for modern medicine. There is the potential for some long term damage but it is slight, and it certainly isn’t as risky as letting someone bleed out. A tourniquet can be improvised from just about anything from a shoelace to a belt. One of the more popular methods is a triangular cloth bandage and a pencil. You can simply wrap the bandage around the pressure point and use the pencil to twist it up to apply pressure. Its cheap and effective. There are some available that can apply serious pressure and hold it well. Of all the ones I’ve handled, I prefer the SOF T Tourniquet. This thing is impressive with the pressure it can generate.
Putting together a kit that contains these items might seem like a bit of an investment at first, but if the need ever arises for use they will be invaluable. I’ve intentionally stayed away from going into much detail about procedures to use these products. I’m neither willing nor qualified to give medical advise. Information about when and how to use any of these is widely available, so please learn to use them if you are going to carry them. The best first aid kit on earth is useless to someone that doesn’t understand how to use it.