Medicine X – A Tactical
Photos by John J. Radzwilla
“It ain’t relevant ‘till it is.” You could spend countless hours reading the latest stats from the CDC, FBI, and Bureau of Justice Statistics on the leading causes of death and crime. The bottom line is what is at stake when looking at those numbers—the potential to lose your life or the life of someone you love.
After spending over 20 years as a medic involved with field and tactical medicine and the past decade teaching throughout the country, there has always been a gap between the time injuries or illnesses happen and when treatment begins. Depending on whose statistics you read, the average response time for an ambulance to arrive on the scene of a medical emergency is between nine and 12 minutes. Which, depending on the mechanism of injury (medic talk for “what caused them to get hurt”) and a few other variables such as location of the patient, overall health/age of the patient, traffic, number of people injured, the weather, and Murphy’s Law; might be too late for EMS to help. Research has proven that when treatment is initiated immediately following or within a few moments of onset of injury/illness, the patient’s chances of survivability increases drastically. What that means is that depending on what happened, you may not have time to sit around and wait for someone else to show up to solve your problem.
Now, if the mechanism of injury has anything to do with violence, that time gap may become several hours instead of minutes. Throughout 2020, we as a nation witnessed multiple violent attacks on police, innocent people at restaurants, and mobs that attacked residential neighborhoods. The days of saying “that will never happen here” are over. That’s where learning how to identify and treat immediate life-threatening injuries as a result of violent attacks becomes relevant. Welcome to “Medicine X” at Lone Star Medics (LSM).
“Medicine X” is one of several different courses that LSM provides across the U.S. This two-day course prepares attendees to not only identify and treat various injuries specific to different types of violent attacks; but also, what medical equipment is needed, and how to carry that equipment every day or as part of family readiness gear. Students are introduced to the principles of tactical medicine in the context of being an armed citizen caught up in an attack. The course is purposely developed to maximize adult learning styles in a short 16 hours. During the course, students learn manual drags and carries to move the wounded to a more advantageous location to begin assessing and treating. They also learn specific, easy to remember patient assessment techniques that rapidly identify injuries that need to be treated first. Students learn through minimal lectures and mostly through hands-on skills practice, modern techniques for controlling moderate to severe bleeding, and how to deal with penetrating thoracic injuries. Wounds caused by violent attacks such as stabbings, gunshots, and even shrapnel from IEDs are discussed in detail during the classroom portion of training. If you’re wondering why you’d need to know how to deal with injuries related to IEDs; just take a look at some of the following attacks: 9/11 (commercial airplanes were used as IEDs), Boston Marathon (homemade bombs made out of a pressure cooker), San Bernardino, California, (pipe bombs recovered from the scene), I could go on and on… During the violent mob attacks across the U.S., firebombs such as Molotov Cocktails were used. Identifying and treating thermal burns and blast injuries were added to the ever-evolving “Medicine X” curriculum four years ago. As the threat(s) evolve, so does the carnage and therefore the way we treat the injuries.
“So what should I put in my med kit?” Selecting the right gear for any mission is vital. In the military we have a saying, “mission dictates gear.” LSM students are taught the whys and hows of identifying and treating wounds and which ones to tackle first. Then they are introduced to specific medical gear that assists them in treating these injuries.
“Medicine X” students learn firsthand what medical gear is needed and what is not. They also learn multiple methods of carrying medical gear. Those methods of carry may be in the form of a low profile or concealed method such as gear being worn on-body. Then again, if the angry mob is hurling firebombs at your car, you may have to grab your Get Home Bag with your IFAK (Individual First Aid Kit) and escape and evade on foot. Students in the “Medicine X” course are able to “use and abuse” over 50 different manufacturers’ products during the live-fire training scenarios. By the end of class they have personally pressure tested themselves using various tourniquets, pressure dressings, chest seals, flexible litters, hemostatic agents, and not to mention the several bags, pouches, and EDC carriers that make on-body carry of medical items incredibly simple. They also learn very quickly that “keeping a med kit in the car” isn’t enough. The idea of carrying minimalistic medical equipment on your body is expressed heavily throughout the course. Having to run 300 yards from the back of a store to your vehicle to retrieve a med kit in order to render aid; only to have to run back (another 300 yards) into a building that has an unknown number of armed bad guys, to control the major bleeding pouring out of a loved one’s leg, does not make sense. They may bleed out during your 600-yard sprint through the gauntlet of bullets.
Speaking of pressure testing, each student participates in scenarios created to represent real-life events that have already happened in the U.S. Students work as individuals and in two- and four-person teams to solve complex problems. If the student and their team use appropriate tactics, they are less likely to sustain “mock” injuries themselves while trying to render aid to a downed buddy named Rescue Randy (a 165- to 250-pound mannequin staged down range). During some scenarios, students must “fight” their way to Randy utilizing their concealed pistol. In other scenarios, they have to “fight” their way out while bringing Randy along utilizing their rifle. By adding the shooting aspect of the scenarios, students often create their own added stressors to the scenarios. To the uninitiated or untrained, these scenarios may look like absolute chaos. However, if you were to ask an alumni, they would most likely tell you a dozen lesson points gained from each controlled scenario.
“Medicine X” provides students the opportunity to learn how and when to identify and treat immediate life-threatening injuries related to violent attacks. The goal is not to make the student fail. The goal is to create an environment that allows students to engage critical thinking under a controlled amount of stress in order to achieve medical skills that are applicable to the context of their daily lives. So, no matter if an attack involves two thugs jumping someone in a parking lot or multiple armed assailants “peacefully protesting,” bad things happen. Sitting there watching a loved one bleed out while you wait for someone else to “do something” just isn’t going to cut it. It takes having the right mindset, education, and tools to be successful.
For more info, visit: lonestarmedics.com.