When I was in the army, I had the required Individual First Aid Kit (IFAK) on my hip just below my kit. I also carried an extra one in my car. After all, I was well versed in every piece of medical equipment in that small canvas bag so it made sense that I had it ready for use. Tourniquet, needle decompression, occlusive dressings–I could apply them with confidence and speed. I imagined that if I came across a nasty car accident, I had the tools to supplement my current skills. If the injury was beyond my technical medical abilities, there was nothing I would be able to do anyway. If it didn’t need the kind of immediate medical attention I was prepared to give, then they could probably stand to wait for the ambulance.
That line of thinking made sense to me, at first.
After I got out, I kept my IFAK in my car. I would go on to witness several car accidents, some serious but most quite minor, amounting in little more than a stunned driver and some cuts and bruises. How often did I apply a tourniquet in the civilian world? Never. When did I pack a puncture wound with combat gauze? Never.
That’s not to say you shouldn’t carry those things. Having the training and equipment to prepare yourself to control bleeding, be it in a car accident, mass shooting or accident in the home, ought to be a priority in everyone’s minds. With that said, Jessie Milaski, former Ranger Medic from 3rd Battalion and current civilian paramedic, had some more options for me.
“You might not need to save someone’s life every single car accident you come across. Having some antacids or passing out ibuprofen could make a big difference.” He went on to also recommend Benadryl, band-aids and bottles of water. “A kid might be freaking out with no life threatening injuries, but a band-aid might calm him down. I’ve got all that stuff in my car’s aid bag, and I’ve had to restock the little things several times over the years since I actually used them. I’ve still got the same tourniquets I started out with.”
The obvious difference here is that if you don’t have the band-aids or ibuprofen, your patient is not going to die. If you’re missing a tourniquet and your patient is bleeding out from their newly amputated arm, you’re in trouble.