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In Tucson's 'Silent Chaos,' Rare Medic Kits Were Key

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In Tucson's 'Silent Chaos,' Rare Medic Kits Were Key

In Tucson's 'Silent Chaos,' Rare Medic Kits Were Key

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MICHELE NORRIS, host:

Now to Tucson, for one story behind the story of the mass shootings there. On January 8th, deputies from the sheriff's department sped to the scene outside the Safeway, with a special kind of first-aid kit in tow. Inspired by military equipment, the goal of the kit is to prevent wounded people from bleeding to death before medical help arrives.

NPR's Ted Robbins explains.

TED ROBBINS: Deputy Gilbert Caudillo was patrolling northwest Tucson that Saturday morning when he got a radio call: Multiple gunshot victims at a local Safeway store. He was one of the first to arrive. He jumped out of his car and ran across the parking lot.

Deputy GILBERT CAUDILLO (Tucson Sheriffs Department): I didn't hear anybody screaming. I didn't hear, you know, shouts for help. It was - someone said it was silent chaos, and that's a pretty - pretty accurate description.

ROBBINS: Caudillo called for every ambulance available. But in the chaos before they arrived, he had to make decisions.

Mr. CAUDILLO: Trying to assess who needed care and who was already deceased, basically triaging.

ROBBINS: Six people were already dead; 13 people were wounded. Other deputies arrived. They began CPR, and they opened a kit they carried, about the size of a fanny pack. It contained $99 worth of gear assembled by David Kleinman, the medic for the sheriff's department SWAT team. He says he got the idea after noticing how many police officers were dying from wounds they got in the line of duty.

Mr. DAVID KLEINMAN (Medic): It wasn't necessary for them to perish. Had there been tools like this, they probably would have survived.

ROBBINS: Kleinman came up with a two-hour training program called "The First Five Minutes." And he adapted an I-FAK, an infantry first aid kit, for civilian use. He laid out the five items in the kit on a table in the busy sheriff's operations room.

Mr. KLEINMAN: This is called an emergency bandage. It's based upon what was originally called the Israeli bandage.

ROBBINS: The bandage, developed by the Israeli military, looks like an Ace bandage you'd wrap around your knee, with a gauze pad and clips to tighten it. It can be used on any part of the body to cover a wound and stop bleeding. You can even wrap it around a stick, and use it as a leg splint.

Combat gauze is in the kit. It's infused with coagulant to stop bleeding. There are shears to cut away clothing, a black nylon tourniquet and an Asherman chest seal.

Mr. KLEINMAN: What it's made for is injuries to the chest that are compromising breathing.

ROBBINS: It's a bandage which fits over a gunshot or stab wound, and has a valve for fluid to escape.

Everything in the kit is designed to be used quickly. That's because people with severe wounds can die in the precious minutes before EMTs or paramedics arrive, or before it's safe for them to enter a crime scene or an accident area.

Ambulances got to the scene in Tucson in six or seven minutes, but Deputy Caudillo says it felt like forever.

Mr. CAUDILLO: After EMS arrived, I was kind of in shock because it felt like it was so long. And after hearing it was, you know, six, seven minutes, it was pretty amazing how that span of time felt so long.

Dr. KATHY HILLER (Emergency Room Physician, University Medical Center): They looked very effective. They were applied correctly. They were appropriately used for the injuries that were - that we saw. And the patients actually were doing very well with those basic medical interventions.

Dr. KATHY HILLER (Emergency Room Physician, University Medical Center): They looked very effective. They were applied correctly. They were appropriately used for the injuries that were - that we saw. And the patients actually were doing very well with those basic medical interventions.

ROBBINS: David Kleinman says he knows of only a few law-enforcement agencies in Arizona and Texas which use the same, or similar, kits. Now that they've proven their effectiveness in a life-and-death situation, that could change.

Ted Robbins, NPR News, Tucson.

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