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Guardsman-turned-police-officer saves lives with military-style tourniquets

Jun. 21, 2013 - 01:00PM   |  
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EVANSVILLE, IND. — Over the course of five weeks, three lives were saved by two Evansville police officers, including that of a 6-year-old girl last Saturday.

Officers Kyle Thiry and Peter DeYoung — both two-year veterans with the department — responded to a report of a small child being hit by a car at Kentucky and Washington avenues at 3 p.m. Saturday.

The scene was chaotic: There were screams and cries from family members and people were everywhere, DeYoung said.

In the midst of the chaos lay a little girl with bright red blood spewing from her right arm.

Thiry, who served in Indiana Army National Guard for nine years, acted quickly, pulling out a tourniquet from a cargo pocket in his uniform that he tried to apply to her small arm.

“My hands were shaking. I knew I had to calm myself down. I was having a hard time getting it on there … My partner (DeYoung) had my back. I didn’t have to worry about anything else except her,” Thiry told the Evansville Courier & Press.

DeYoung was busy securing the scene, talking with the mother and family, and making sure Thiry had the space he needed to focus on the girl.

The tourniquet slowed the blood loss but didn’t stop it completely, so he applied a pressure dressing using bath towels and by pressing on a pressure point to get the blood flow to stop completely.

“That girl was tough,” Thiry said.

He held her hand after the bleeding had stopped, but then her lips turned a shade of blue, her skin became clammy and she began to slip into shock.

“I kept asking questions over and over, just basic stuff … She got mad at me because I kept waking her up,” he said.

The young girl lived as a result of the tourniquet, doctors said. Two of her arteries may have been severed from the accident. She also experienced serious road rash, DeYoung said.

She’s being treated at a Louisville, Ky., hospital and may still lose her arm, Thiry said.

It was the second time since May that Thiry has used a tourniquet to save a life. The first was a man who had been slashed to the bone with a steak knife, nicking an artery. Thiry applied the tourniquet, saving the man’s life by preventing him from bleeding out. The Police Merit Commission awarded him the Bronze Merit Award earlier this month.

Assistant Police Chief Chris Pugh wrote in his recommendation for the award: “ … Officer Thiry’s actions in applying the tourniquet were clearly above the expectations of his regularly assigned job responsibilities.”

The tourniquets and training were provided by the Evansville Police Department Foundation in February, though Thiry had received his combat care training from the military.

They’re Combat Application Tourniquets — the official tourniquet of the Army. They cost only $30, Thiry said, and every officer in the department received one.

Not only can they be used on others, the tourniquets are designed for the user to apply to themselves, DeYoung said.

The foundation, however, is having trouble securing funding for more training or tourniquets, he said.

“I don’t even have another tourniquet right now,” Thiry said.

During hostile situations, AMR and the fire department don’t enter the scene until it’s secured, leaving the police officers on scene to act quickly.

“We got there three to four minutes before fire,” DeYoung said. “She would’ve been dead.”

Thiry hopes that tourniquets become a staple in the department.

“There’s no excuse for any department, or any first responder for that matter, to not be able to have the knowledge and use and basic understanding of this. They’re only $20-30. What if she would’ve passed? What is that worth? It’s better to have it and not have to use it than need and not have it,” Thiry said.

The Evansville Police Department shared the story on its Facebook page Tuesday morning, and by Thursday afternoon, the post had 14,500 comments, and had been shared by 16,500 users, “liked” by 288,000 users and was viewed by 7.4 million people, according to department spokesman Sgt. Jason Cullum.

Thiry isn’t the only Evansville police officer who’s applied a lifesaving tourniquet recently. Officer Kevin Mason was also awarded the Bronze Merit Award for saving man’s life after he was severely mauled by a pit bull.

According to a report from Pugh, the dog bit the man, causing lacerations and puncture wounds to his chest, left arm and leg. A witness said the wound had been squirting blood, according to the report.

Mason used his tourniquet on the man’s left arm to stop the blood loss.

Capt. Daniel Brown with the Evansville Fire Department wrote in the report: “EPD officers generally don’t have to directly deal with medic runs, so recognizing that this was a serious wound that needed immediate attention is commendable.”

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