Surviving Being Shot

I have several friends that are walking around today, despite being shot numerous times, so being shot does not mean you're going to die. Furthermore, I have friends that only realized they were shot after the action and after the suspect was down. Think of Officer Kenyon Tuthill, as chronicled in the Calibre Press Ultimate Survivors video who, despite being shot in the head with a shotgun slug, never lost consciousness. Even though Kenyon lost the use of his eyes and mouth, he tried to call out on the radio for backup. Mentally you must stay in the fight. As the video narrator, William Shatner, reminds us, "Victims focus on their vulnerabilities; survivors focus on their ability to respond."

Stay in the fight

Your first goal must be neutralizing the suspect. Additional wounds or death may result if you stop defending yourself and focus on your injuries. This has been a recommendation for field medical personnel in the military, based on combat experience in Iraq. You cannot render aid when the enemy is still up and shooting at you or the wounded personnel. Stay in the fight! There have been recorded incidents in law enforcement of officers succumbing to non-vital wounds because they panicked and gave up, and yet I have a coworker that survived a .308 wound to the abdomen that blew out a fist sized hole in his back. He never stopped and never dropped. He got his pistol out and returned fire as he moved backward to safe cover. Only after the shooting was over did he communicate his situation to other officers on scene and on the radio. Training should emphasize that an officer must not relax and must engage in follow-through movements. These include but are not limited to:

  • Get to cover, if not already behind it
  • Check your weapons system to make sure it is operational and fully loaded
  • Check your person to see if you are injured
  • Communicate
    • Your location
    • What you have
    • Suspect descriptions, if they are no longer on the scene
    • Safe approach for responding units and injuries
  • If possible, render first aid to yourself and other wounded citizens and officers

First Aid Options

According to combat medical information from Dr. Fabrice Czarnecki, the number one preventable cause of death on the battlefield is exsanguination (excessive blood loss) from extremities. Penetrating head trauma accounts for only 31% of battlefield KIAs. Some 60% of preventable combat deaths result from bleeding to death from extremity wounds. In Vietnam alone, hemorrhage from an extremity resulted in the death of over 2,500 soldiers that had no other injury.

Several years ago I spearheaded the formation of a tactical medic program for my agency's SWAT team. I had the good fortune to work closely with my friend Dr. Jo McMullen (recently awarded the National Tactical Officers Association Tactical EMS award). The paramedics that passed selection have worked closely with the team over the years since, and have become a vital part of our tactical response. One of the first missions Dr. McMullen tasked them with was equipping each operator with a trauma dressing and tourniquet, as well as a laminated form containing emergency medical and contact info. First aid training was given to the team with emphasis on gunshot wounds. Direct pressure to the site of the wounds may be enough to stop blood loss. With blood loss leading to unconsciousness occurring in a matter of minutes, it is imperative that you stem blood flow as soon as possible. If direct pressure does not work, contrary to first aid recommendations from your Boy Scout days, tourniquets are recommended to stop serious blood flow sooner rather than later.

QuickClot®

QuickClot is one of the new products that has come out over the last several years and has been proven successful in combat whether military or civilian police. QuickClot is classified as a blood clotting agent. Simply put, when QuickClot is directly applied to a bleeding wound, even if to a major artery, it can successfully clot the blood and slow or stop the bleeding . Manufactured by Z-Medica, QuickClot has the widest distribution of any such agent on the market. According to Z-Medica representatives, over one million units of QuickClot are now in the hands of our nation's military, police and emergency medics.

QuickClot is simple to use. The user should blot the excess blood off the wound and then pour the agent directly onto the bleeding wound or blood vessel. A trauma dressing or towel is held over the product until bleeding stops. The early version of QuickClot had a heat spike of about 150 degrees and could burn the medic's unprotected hand if a trauma dressing or similar was not used. The newest development from Z-Medica is QuickClot 1st Response® and ACS+® (Advanced Clotting Sponge). These products have reduced the heat issue completely. According to Z-Medica, both are used by opening the package and then packing the self-contained sponge directly into the wound. The QuickClot packages can be easily carried, as can a small trauma dressing, in the thigh pockets of an officer's BDU-type pants.

Listen to these words of advice from the United States Marine Corps based on combat experience in Iraq:

"The new "Quick Clot" bandage has proven very effective in saving lives. All medical personnel should be trained on how to use them. Corpsman and medical units not equipped with "Quick Clot" bandages should order some now. Realistically, all personnel should be trained on how to use the "Quick Clot" bandage and be trained in basic life saving first aid."

You Can Survive

Several years ago, Los Angeles Police Department Officer Stacy Lim was set upon off-duty by carjackers outside her own home while returning from a softball game. Shot through the chest at close range with a .357 Magnum, Lim was able to return fire, shooting her attacker multiple times. Soon collapsing at the end of her driveway, Officer Lim was taken to the emergency room. Stacy went was brought back to life three times after her heart stopped. During the time in the emergency room, she received 101 units of blood. Despite damage to her heart, spleen and other internal organs, she credits her training from the LAPD for her survival.

Despite being shot at five feet, Stacy stayed on her feet and won the gunfight. Although she knew she was shot, she made the mental decision to deal with the hurt later and win the gun battle now.

We can learn and apply the lessons of our military in Iraq as well as the heroic story of Stacy Lim. We can survive being shot, we can survive trauma to our system, as long as our fighting will to win stays strong. Condition your mind as well as your body. Check out QuickClot products. Talk to a local paramedic and receive basic trauma first aid training. Empower and equip yourself to win!

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