First-aid kits — each no larger than a baseball mitt — issued in January have allowed Tucson police officers to render sometimes lifesaving aid to 23 people in the last three months.
The kits, specifically designed to treat trauma patients, were given to 600 patrol officers and sergeants who work in the field. The program has been so successful that more than 400 additional kits have been purchased, enough to supply every member of the force, lead police Officer Michael Johnson said at a news conference Tuesday.
“Not only can we save ourselves, we can save citizens,” Johnson said.
The trauma kits are similar to those used by military ground troops to stem the flow of blood until the victim can receive medical care. Included in each black zippered pouch are wound packing gauzes with a mineral to speed up clotting; a tourniquet; pressure dressings to treat severe wounds; a large bandage to cover abdominal wounds; and a chest seal, an airtight sticker that seals holes in the chest cavity.
Because some of the supplies were military surplus, the cost of the first-aid kits varies. The first batch of 600 cost $60 apiece — half of the retail cost, said Lt. Eric Kazmierczak. The next 400 or so kits cost $30 each. All together the department spent about $48,000.
The kits are crucial to bridge the gap between the time police officers at a crime scene and paramedics can treat a patient, Kazmierczak said. For reasons of safety, paramedics sometimes have to wait for officers to secure a scene before they are allowed to enter and render aid.
Officers who have been trained to use the medical supplies are embracing the new, easier-to-use trauma kits. About two dozen officers have used them so far to provide critical medical aid.
“The patrol officers have really bought into this and have been aggressive in using these kits,” said Detective Jason Bredehoft, who helped train officers in rendering aid.
After being issued the new supplies, Officer Jack Julsing responded to a call about a stabbing and found a 17-year-old bleeding from a femoral artery. He applied a tourniquet and stuffed the wound with the specially treated gauze that allowed the blood to clot, until paramedics arrived to take over treatment.
Upon arriving on the scene of a home invasion, Officer Lance Hazelman found the resident had been hit on the head and shot in the chest by an intruder. Hazelman assessed the victim’s injuries, applied a chest seal to keep air from escaping his punctured lung and bandaged the victim’s head before paramedics arrived.
The new medical supplies are more user-friendly than the previous first-aid kits, he said. “Most of the stuff, you can rip it open and use it.”
Officer Korey Bowlby responded to a call about a stabbing and found a naked man covered in blood. The victim had a wound on his neck and a cut to his abdomen through which his intestines were protruding. In the five minutes before paramedics arrived, Bowlby dressed the wound with gauze and bandages.