Jan. 26, 2014, would not be like any other work day for State Trooper Justin Hansen. While assisting at the scene of an accident, he attempted to get something out of his truck when a car at highway speed lost control behind him, spun around and struck him. He was pinned between the two bumpers of the cars, and suffered a near amputation of his right leg and a deformity to his left leg. Due to extreme hemorrhage from his right leg, quick-thinking bystanders applied multiple tourniquets to his leg and successfully began to control the massive bleeding.
On arrival at the Trauma Center in Neenah, he was hypotensive and required blood products. The survivability of his right leg was in question and discussed with Justin and his wife. He was taken to the operating room, where an attempt at revascularization of his leg was unsuccessful. He ultimately required a below-the-knee amputation. While he suffered the loss of his leg, his life was saved by proactive responders who applied the circumferential tourniquets. After a grueling rehabilitation process and a prosthetic leg, Justin remarkably returned to work in November of last year. He is extremely grateful for the “Johnny on the spot” fellow who applied the tourniquet to his leg and for all those responsible for his recovery.
Although tourniquets are meant to control life-threatening vascular hemorrhage from extremity wounds, they were long believed to do more harm than good. Attitudes about tourniquets began to change with the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. Roadside bombs caused traumatic lower and upper extremity injuries and amputations. By using more tourniquets, they could get soldiers to definitive care without bleeding out. Tourniquet application has dramatically affected injured soldiers’ outcomes, just as it did for Justin Hansen.
After Justin’s experience, Wisconsin State Troopers began carrying tourniquets on their person as a safeguard, just as they do in the military. Little did they know they would soon have the opportunity to return the favor done for their fellow trooper. While law enforcement usually arrives on scene before any other EMS personnel, we don’t always think of officers as frontline caregivers, let alone the gatekeepers of trauma care, but they have saved many lives with their first responder skills. Wisconsin State Trooper Nathan Wright was first on scene at a farming accident, where he immediately applied his tourniquet to a person’s leg because it met the definition of significant bleeding as they were taught. The patient’s leg ultimately was saved. Trooper Daniel Restrepo just recently responded to a motor vehicle crash, where the driver had a near amputation of his right ankle. Again, by being first on scene, practicing good trauma care and applying a lifesaving tourniquet, another life was saved.
We are grateful to these gatekeepers for their training and willingness to answer the call to protect and serve!
By Pam Witt-Hillen, ThedaStar Flight Nurse