Follow @MaryMitchellCSTWhen two Chicago Police officers found a 24-year-old man critically injured by gunshots, they were able to do more than wait for an ambulance.
Alejandro Cabral and Juan Zuniga used a quick-clotting gauze — that Cabral kept in his first aid kit — to stop the bleeding.
It saved the young man’s life.
At the time, police officers were paying out of their own pockets for the kits.
Last week, the City Council’s Finance Committee approved a measure to equip 3,000 Chicago police officers who have completed Law Enforcement Rescue Training with the kits.
“We are not going to be taking the role of the paramedic. The true concept is to save officers that are critically wounded and save citizens who are critically wounded, should an officer be in a position to do so,” said Anthony Guglielmi, director of News Affairs.
Follow @MaryMitchellCSTIn a city where there have been nearly 3,000 shooting incidents and at least 560 homicides this year, it sounds like a good idea.
But listen to how an instructor from the Chicago Police Department’s education and training division explained why giving police officers quick-clotting gauze makes sense.
“If we are injured, the only person we can count on is ourselves. If we don’t have the tools, if we don’t have the proper training and the confidence to use it, we may just bleed out and die,” Brian Berkowitz told aldermen.
He went on to point out that in the last five years, five police officers were shot in the line of duty, and it took an average of six minutes and up to 13 minutes for an ambulance to arrive.
While we certainly don’t want to see police officers dying in the street, there are innocent victims of this gun violence dying in the street every day.
Shouldn’t paramedics have this same lifesaving tool? I think so.
But paramedics are not even allowed to use the gauze.
Patrick Fitzmaurice, a 41-year veteran of the Chicago Fire Department and a paramedic field chief, is outraged.
“We have people that are getting shot and stabbed. They are dying in transit. We are up to our ankles in blood and there is not a damn thing we can do about it,” Fitzmaurice told me angrily.
Quick-clotting gauze is used directly in the wound to stop the bleeding. It has been tested by the military in combat zones. In 2012, the Chicago Fire Department stockpiled it for the 2012 NATO G-8 Summit, but ended up tossing it when it expired.
Chicago Fire Department spokesman Larry Langford said EMS directors, a consortium of medical directors of the region’s four trauma centers, “do not authorize the use of quick-clotting type products” by paramedics.
“One reason for this is the time frame in which the Chicago Fire Department responds and delivers the patient to the trauma center negates the need for such products in the field,” Langford said.
Currently, the consortium’s standing orders do not make accommodations for the use of quick-clotting gauze products, according to a spokeswoman for the Cook County Health and Hospitals System.
“There has not been sufficient scientific research to show that these products are any more effective than wound packing and direct pressure with traditional gauze,” Alexandra Normington said in an email.
Obviously, the Finance Committee disagrees with that assessment.
Frankly, giving police officers access to this lifesaving tool while denying paramedics the same access sends the message that civilian lives don’t matter as much.
Fitzmaurice, who has challenged the department in the past on other issues, including bulletproof vests, is convinced that quick-clotting gauze could have saved a lot of lives.
“I am tired of looking at kids saying you are going to be OK when I know for a fact they are not. For them to tell us we can’t use this tool, and we don’t have the training, is ridiculous,” he said.