HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — The scene was ghastly when state troopers arrived at an eastern Connecticut home last November: A woman had severely wounded her arms on a table saw in a suicide attempt and was bleeding profusely.
Calling on his first aid training, Trooper Paul Piper was able to stop the bleeding and save the woman’s life using a tourniquet he fashioned out of a rag and screwdriver. Piper and two other troopers who helped him, Randy Silvestri and Greg Hunter, recently received state police lifesaving awards for their efforts.
Connecticut troopers are among officers nationwide who have received training, or are currently being trained, in how to stop severe bleeding. Such training has become widely used across the country, based on recommendations made last year by a group of experts that met in Hartford in response to mass shootings, including the one at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown that killed 20 first-graders and six educators.
“We have many success stories over the years of Connecticut state troopers getting to the scene and being commended by medical personnel because their actions have saved lives,” said Lt. J. Paul Vance, a state police spokesman. “Every single state trooper from the colonel to the new recruits are trained and recertified on a regular basis on emergency care in the field.”
A month before Piper saved the woman in Lisbon, Trooper James King helped save a motorcycle accident victim on Interstate 84 in western Connecticut by applying a tourniquet to his right leg, state police said. King also received a lifesaving award at a ceremony in July.
An estimated 80,000 police officers in the nation’s largest cities and in some smaller towns are learning more on how to control hemorrhaging with tourniquets and other materials, said Dr. Alexander Eastman, a Texas surgeon and police lieutenant on the Dallas SWAT team who helped recommend the training.
“The idea is to make hemorrhage control a core skill of every law enforcement officer in the United States,” Eastman said. “You just need someone trained in blood hemorrhage control to apply a tourniquet, and that person’s life is saved.”
In 2007, Eastman was credited with helping to save the lives of two of four Dallas officers shot during a raid. He applied a tourniquet to the bleeding leg of one officer and performed an emergency tracheotomy on another who was shot in the neck.
The new wave of police training was spurred by recommendations made in Hartford by a group of law enforcement, medical and military experts including Eastman who were brought together by the American College of Surgeons. The idea was to find ways to increase the number of survivors in mass shootings. Eastman also noted how tourniquets were used to help save some of those injured in the Boston Marathon bombings.
The group recommended that all police officers carry tourniquets and gauze with chemicals that stop hemorrhaging, and be trained to use them. It’s the same kind of equipment and training used by the military in Iraq and Afghanistan, where many soldiers have suffered severe bleeding injuries from bombs.
Dr. Lenworth Jacobs, director of trauma and emergency medicine at Hartford Hospital who participated in the group discussion, said there is strong interest in this training.
“It’s an unfortunate statement, but we live in volatile times,” he said.
The Hartford group also recommended placing kits with tourniquets and blood-stopping gauze in public places including schools, shopping malls and churches, but that proposal has been slower to catch on, Jacobs said.
One town in Connecticut, however, has put such kits in all its schools. Wallingford officials recently announced the move, after a local company that makes the kits approached them. Wallingford Superintendent of Schools Salvatore Menzo said the motivation was not mass shootings but rather was severe injuries that can happen in any school or athletic field.
“We’re looking at it from the angle … that we do have instances that occur in our buildings that are freak accidents,” Menzo said. “Almost every other district in the country has incidents during the year when a significant injury occurs.”
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