Trauma care - translating military lessons learned to the civilian sector
When two bombs detonated near the finish line of the Boston Marathon on April 15, 2013, first responders reacted immediately to care for the hundreds of critically injured athletes and spectators. Army Reservist Dr. David King, a trauma surgeon at Massachusetts General Hospital Trauma Center who was running the race that day, also sprinted into action.
King shared his experiences during a roundtable session at the Military Health System Research Symposium in Fort Lauderdale, Florida on Tuesday, Aug. 19, talking about how military medical knowledge and products, such as tourniquets, can be useful both on and off the battlefield.
Joining the roundtable via teleconference was Dr. Richard Hunt, director for medical preparedness policy of the National Security Council Staff at the White House and Col. (Dr.) Todd Rasmussen, director of the Combat Casualty Care Research Program at the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command.
"Tourniquets were recognized as a need from an abundance of research from the field," said King, referring to the extensive research conducted at the U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research.
Prior to the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, tourniquets were seldom used on the battlefield. However, research showed that tourniquets could save lives and prevent injured service members from dying due to blood loss. Today every service member deploying to a combat zone carries two tourniquets in their personal first aid kits.
"I would boldly propose that all civilian emergency medical providers carry [a tourniquet] like all soldiers," said King.
Hunt agrees and is collaborating with a 50-member White House working group that is dedicated to developing a program to create a culture of resilience among the publicâ€"especially when it comes to bystanders helping out during a time of crisis. "It's about taking care of each other," said Hunt. "The opportunity to save a life is in the hands of the person standing closest to them."
Hunt also added that designing a program to educate and empower people to know how to use a life-saving device is not going to be easy. "It's important to get it right," he said.
Hunt also said public education is necessary. He said a well-developed catchphrase could help encourage a bystander to take appropriate action in an emergency, referring to phrases that have become engrained in our culture, such as "stop, drop and roll."
Whether it is a man-made or natural disaster, preparedness, knowledge and the right tools can save lives, added Rasmussen. "It takes the wind out of my breath, the scenarios we have seen in which teachers act to take care of their students," said Rasmussen. "They need to be empowered [with tools and resources]. That is all they want."