FORT BLISS, Texas - Blood and brain fluid is running out of his ears and his left arm had a deep laceration right above his elbow. Blood is pouring out of the gash and he is unresponsive. His eyes are bloodshot and dilated and tears seem to create a trench through the dirt coked on his face.
That is what I saw at 6 p.m., Oct. 2, 2012, on Dyer Street in North Eastern El Paso when a pedestrian was run over by an SUV and knocked unconscious.
I saw the accident and thought, “What do I do now? I can’t let him lay there and die. Is it my responsibility to help him? I’m not a medic. Should I just drive off like the other 12 vehicles?”
Instinct kicked in and I parked my car across the intersection to shield him from oncoming traffic.
I ran up to him, looked, listened and felt as I was taught. I treated the bleeding first, using my belt as a tourniquet for the laceration on his arm. I grabbed a T-shirt out of my trunk and attempted to bandage his bleeding skull with it. I kept asking him his name and seeking a response from him. Another soldier ran up to help me. Me, an Army journalist, and he, a motor transport specialist, two non-medical occupational specialties performing lifesaving aid to a pedestrian until the ambulance arrived.
After he started to regain consciousness we both noticed clear fluid coming from his ears and the back of his head, but that was when the ambulance and an off-duty paramedic took over.
Ironically, this incident happened two weeks after I completed the new and improved Combat Life Saver Course.
The CLS course has integrated the Tactical Combat Casualty Care (TC3) curriculum to enhance combat readiness and life saving techniques. The CLS course is not only a force multiplier on the battlefield, but is essential in all facets of life. I never had to use these tactics down range, but who would have guessed I would use some of them on a civilian?
Twelve years ago, I was a private first class sitting in a combat lifesaving class learning why a tourniquet was a last resort, how to insert an intravenous needle, and how to identify shock. Now 12 years later, I know why a tourniquet is now a first resort, and why loss of blood is the leading cause of combat related deaths. The curriculum has definitely changed with the times.
Instructors at the Medical Simulation Training Center at Fort Bliss, Texas, take their jobs very seriously and for good reason. The course is by far the most realistic training a soldier can get here, but the main focus of the MSTC is to provide soldiers, civilians and law enforcement officials with in-depth combat casualty care training in tactical and non-tactical situations.
The MSTC trains its students on more advanced techniques now: decompression of a tension pneumothorax, inserting a nasal pharyngeal, gunshot care, movements under fire, casualty evacuation, nine-line medical evacuation, traumatic brain injury care and severe hemorrhage care. The curriculum is designed to directly assist in the preservation of life on and off the battlefield. One lucky El Pasoan got the opportunity to benefit from this training.
After going through the CLS course, I was confident in my ability to perform first aid regardless of the circumstances in which I found myself and that is the most important facet of this training. At any given moment, anyone may be charged with providing lifesaving aid to an individual.
At the end of the day, a life was protected from further injury, cared for with limited supplies and ultimately saved. I honestly can’t say what we did was directly responsible for his survival, but I can say that what I learned at the MSTC gave me the confidence and poise to react to an adverse situation and help another person see another day. That’s what matters.